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Human remains could be BE man

By Staff | Apr 3, 2011

Michael Berry

Human remains found recently in South Dakota may solve the mysterious disappearance of a former Blue Earth resident nearly five years ago.

Michael J. Berry was 61 years old when he was last seen in Keystone, S. D., on June 8, 2006. His abandoned car was found in Keystone two days later.

On Monday, March 21, a crew doing logging in a remote area three miles south of Keystone discovered human bones, as well as shoes and clothing.

A positive identification of the remains has not been established, but South Dakota media outlets are reporting that the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department is reviewing two unsolved disappearances, including Berry in 2006, as part of the investigation.

Last week officials of the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department contacted a Blue Earth dentist office seeking Berry’s dental records. However, no records were available.

Berry is the son of Mary Drexlor and the stepson of Dr. George Drexlor, former residents of Blue Earth.

A native of Spencer, Iowa, Berry is a 1964 graduate of Blue Earth High School. He briefly attended college in Mankato, but moved to Colorado and Texas, working as a carpenter, woodworker and artist.

Later, he moved back to Blue Earth with his wife in the early 1990s, but left again for Colorado, then South Dakota.

He was living alone in Rapid City at the time of his disappearance in 2006, working as an artist and a director of the yet-to-be-funded International Peace Park and Sculpture Gardens in the Black Hills.

When he was last seen, Berry was asking Keystone residents for directions for the best way to hike to the nearby Holy Terror Mine.

The mine is surrounded by dangerous terrain, including steep hills and cliffs, according to the sheriff’s office.

Between 50-75 people, two bloodhounds and a helicopter failed to find any trace of Berry in 2006, and the search was called off on June 12, four days after he went missing.

His disappearance was first reported to authorities on June 9 by his brother-in-law, who was visiting in the area. He had received a phone message from Berry saying he (Berry) was going hiking.

According to a story in the Register at the time (from which some of this information is reprinted), foul play was not suspected in 2006.

An autopsy on the recently discovered remains has been completed, but revealed little information, says Pennington County Sheriff’s Department investigator Karissa Wilhelm. Findings indicate it was an adult male, but the age, sex or race could not be determined.

There were no indications of foul play in the persons death according to the autopsy report, the investigator confirms.

“We will be relying on dental records and DNA testing to try and identify the remains,” Wilhelm says. “This could take some time. If we get lucky, we may be able to use dental records. Otherwise, it might take months for DNA results to come back.”

Wilhelm calls this an ongoing investigation, and says she is unable to say very much at this time.

“I can confirm that we are looking into the possibility this could be Michael Berry,” Wilhelm says.