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Marc McNeal was just finishing a hike in the Frederick Watershed at about 6 p.m. when another hiker walked up to his truck and asked for help.
A chief with the United Steam Fire Engine Co., McNeal is always ready to lend a hand, but he quickly realized the severity of the situation when the stranger told him what he had found just a few hundred yards up the trail.
“He stated that he observed some bones that he thought may be human,” McNeal said, responding to The Frederick News-Post‘s questions by email.
Determined to get to the bottom of the bizarre discovery, McNeal followed the man about a quarter-mile up the trail from a parking area off Gambrill Park Road near Hamburg Road. From there, the two men made their way about 75 feet off the unmarked trail to find what McNeal described as a hole in the dirt.
Careful not to infringe too far on the site, the fire chief found signs that an animal had recently uncovered what appeared to be a shallow grave.
“Again, neither of us disturbed the area; however, you could see one of the bones that was exposed was definitely a human leg bone,” McNeal said. “There was what appeared to be pants and a belt that were partially visible in the hole, as well.”
A few minutes later, McNeal was back at the parking area, climbing into his truck to key his radio.
“Chief 3 to Frederick on the admin [channel],” McNeal’s voice cuts in at 6:12 p.m. in recordings obtained through a records request by The Frederick News-Post. “… Is it possible for you to have a patrol deputy give me a call on my cellphone for the area of Gambrill Park Road near Hamburg Road?”
Less than a minute later, a Frederick County sheriff’s deputy was headed up the mountain, followed quickly by a supervisor at 7:05 p.m.
While Frederick County is not immune to such grisly discoveries, the implication that a homicide victim was found in so secluded an area was unusual enough to bring in additional manpower.
A Maryland Natural Resources police officer arrived at the command post at 8 p.m., followed in rapid succession by Frederick police and forensic experts from the sheriff’s office, city police and, eventually, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, according to the records obtained by the News-Post.
Within three months, six men were named in an indictment filed in Frederick County Circuit Court charging them with the murder of the man found in the woods that day, 37-year-old Silver Spring resident Victor Antonio Turcios-Valle.
Even though only one of the men had direct ties to Frederick, all six men were well-known to law enforcement agencies across the region through their suspected involvement in MS-13, one of the most violent and prolific criminal street gangs in the country.