Two bones recovered this past weekend from a trail near the Confederate Breastworks in western Augusta County are not human bones, the Augusta County Sheriff's Office said on Monday.
Cap. Glenn Hanger of the Sheriff's Office said a preliminary report Monday from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science in Roanoke indicated the bones were not human.
A civilian search team hoping to find traces of missing hiker Robert Fitzgerald of Staunton discovered the bones on Saturday. The searchers also found a running shoe.
Fitzgerald, 60, vanished last November after returning to the Shenandoah Mountain Trail near the Augusta-Highland County line. The bones were found 2.4 miles north northeast of the Confederate Breastworks.
Hanger said Sheriff's investigators and Sheriff Randy Fisher returned to the area Sunday for an additional search near where the bone fragments were found. Sunday's search lasted about six hours. There was nothing additional found in Sunday's search.
Hanger described Monday's news as disappointing. He said had the bones been human ones, the next step would have been a DNA profile to compare the bones to DNA found in Fitzgerald's Staunton home. The DNA profile would have taken several months, Hanger said.
An initial search for Fitzgerald was performed over several days after he disappeared in November. Fisher said at the time that the search was complicated by the thick foliage in search area east of Shenandoah Mountain Trail. Fisher said the search area was steep and thick with Mountain Laurel standing as high as 5 to 6 feet.
Fitzgerald's burgundy Kia was found at the head of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail last November. He was described by friends as a physically active man who worked every day and exercised with friends at Gypsy Hill Park and the Staunton Augusta YMCA.
Fitzgerald visited the Staunton Augusta YMCA several times a week, said Wendy Shutty, the Y's fitness director.
She said he worked in the weight room and participated in some of the Y's cycling classes. "His passion was running,'' said Shutty, who described Fitzgerald as quiet and reserved but "very well respected and liked."
Shutty said Fitzgerald's many friends at the YMCA are eager to get answers about what happened to him.