UPDATED 3:15 p.m. Wednesday
CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign man missing almost four months was found less than 100 feet from his own home.
Champaign police are treating the death of Renard Jackson as a homicide and are trying to figure out exactly how he died and who was responsible for putting him in the location where his body was recovered.
Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said fingerprints taken from the corpse found in the back yard of a home at 1509 Hedge Road, C, on Sunday afternoon, matched those of Mr. Jackson, 49.
He was last seen by his family about 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, when he left their home in the 1500 block of Holly Hill Drive, in the same subdivision, to pay a bill. He never came home.
Two days later, they reported him missing.
Detective Pat Funkhouser, who along with Detective Mark Strzesak worked on nothing but Mr. Jackson’s disappearance for a month, said earlier that for him to just disappear was “extremely out of character.”
They felt that way mainly because Mr. Jackson was a primary caretaker for his disabled adult stepdaughter and her children. Additionally, he was frequently out on his prized bicycle running errands for neighbors.
When that bicycle and his wallet, minus its cash, were found two blocks from his home on the Tuesday after his disappearance, police began to suspect that something sinister had happened to him.
The manner in which his body was found on Sunday only deepened their suspicions.
Although police are not prepared to say what Tuesday’s autopsy of Mr. Jackson showed, Sgt. Dave Griffet said “there’s a good possibility he didn’t die on his own but we don’t know that.”
Additionally, Griffet said, his body was concealed in such a thorough manner that it was missed in at least two neighborhood canvasses and by dogs trained to recognize the scent of cadavers. The dogs may have passed within 50 feet of the body, he said.
“He was found in an area where one would think he couldn’t get on his own,” said Griffet, adding it appeared he had been in that location for a long time.
On Sunday, police said the home owner reported smelling an odor that led him to the body, which was lying next to a shed in his back yard. The body, which police immediately figured was Mr. Jackson, was clothed.
The yard in which he was found on Hedge bordered the back yard of the home where his family lived on Holly Hill. The family no longer lives on Holly Hill, Griffet said, and the house where he was found has been vacant for a while.
In addition to the hours that Strzesak and Funkhouser put in on Mr. Jackson’s case, Champaign police did at least two thorough searches of the Garden Hills neighborhood, the Vermilion County Sheriff’s Office dive team searched Crystal Lake in Urbana, and police routinely checked under bridges and anywhere else they could think of while on patrol.
“We had the Department of Transportation helicopter checking waterways and roadside ditches on the outskirts of town,” Griffet said.
“We went to enormous lengths to rule out these places where in the past people have been found under suspicious circumstances,” Griffet said.
“We’ve tried to investigate every lead possible. We’ll continue to investigate and see what we can find out,” he said.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Champaign police at 217-351-4545 or callers who want to remain anonymous and possibly collect a reward can call Crimestoppers at 217-373-8477.