By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — Click here for video
The investigation into the death of a Tazewell County, Va., man whose body was found on Stoney Ridge Road early Thursday morning took another step on Friday at a press conference where authorities released the name of the victim and provided information as to the status of the investigation.
Senior Deputy A.M. Ballard of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department said that the body of Patrick Eric Neal, 31, of Bluefield, Va., has been sent to the state medical examiner’s office in South Charleston for an autopsy. Ballard said that a Mercer County school bus driver, who traveled on Stoney Ridge Road at about 6:15 a.m. on Thursday, reported that he ran over an object on the road. There were no children on the bus at the time.
“He saw a black object on the road and thought it was trash,” Ballard said. He noted later in the press conference that the area is known as a place where people discard trash. He said there is a discarded couch not far from where Neal’s body was discovered. Ballard said that the road also has a series of left turns in the vicinity, which would add to the difficulty of seeing a person on the road — especially a person wearing a dark hat, dark jacket and blue jeans.
“We’re not certain that Mr. Neal was alive (when the bus ran over him, Ballard said. “There’s a possibility that he may have been deceased.”
Ballard said that Neal had been at a friend’s home that is further up Stoney Ridge near the Bluefield city line. He said that Neal left the residence at 2 a.m. to walk home. “He was not shot. He was not stabbed,” Ballard said.
According to Ballard, a second bus driver who was on Stoney Ridge Road at 7:15 a.m. spotted Neal and called 911. Ballard said that he, Detective Cpl. L.B. Murphy, Sgt. G.W. Woods and Sheriff D.B. “Don” Meadows, all responded to the scene. He said that Mercer County Coroner John Sommers determined that the victim had a broken left arm, broken shoulder and broken ribs.
“There was no blood on the bus,” Ballard said. He said that investigators found some material from the victim’s jacket on the undercarriage of the bus
“We’re waiting on the report from the medical examiner,” Ballard said. Other than that, he said that the case remains under investigation.
Joe Turner, assistant superintendent of Mercer County Schools, read a statement on behalf of the school system. He prefaced his remarks by saying he would not take any additional questions — deferring to the Mercer Sheriff’s Department to release any additional information.
“Mercer County Schools acknowledges that a traffic accident occurred (on Thursday) in the Bluewell area that involved one of our buses. The district is saddened by this tragic accident and wishes to express our sympathy to the family of the accident victim.
“The school bus was en route to pick up children for the day when the accident occurred. There were no children on the bus at the time.
“We are fully cooperating with the police in their investigation. No further details will be released pending the conclusion of the investigation,” Turner read.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org