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Death cause still mystery in ’11 case

– Authorities investigating the death of a Noblesville woman whose remains were found in a north-central Indiana field eight months after she vanished say they have been unable to determine how and where she died.

Dorothy Heard, 74, was reported missing from her home in June 2011. Police found her remains in February in a field near the Mississinewa River a few miles northwest of Marion.

The Grant County coroner’s office used DNA to identify the remains as those of Heard, but Coroner Stephen Dorsey told the Kokomo Tribune for a story published Thursday that his office could not determine a cause of death.

“We ruled the cause of death is undetermined and the manner of death unknown,” he said Wednesday.

But Dorsey said his office did determine that Heard’s remains had been left in Grant County during the summer of 2011.

He said the place of death also could not be determined. Her body was found about 40 miles north of her Noblesville home.

Noblesville Police spokesman Lt. Bruce Barnes said Heard’s death remains under investigation, pending results from the state police lab and additional information from the coroner’s office. He said that once all the information is gathered, the case will be presented to the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office to determine whether any charges will be filed.

“The investigation is still wide open,” he said.

Barnes said Heard’s nephew, 47-year-old Donald L. Burns, is still considered a person of interest in the case.

Police said Heard left a note on June 13, 2011 – the day she vanished – stating that she and Burns were visiting family grave sites in Wabash.

Noblesville police said Burns used Heard’s credit card the same day to make a $378 purchase at a Marion Walmart. A short time later, another charge was attempted at the same location for approximately $700, but that charge was declined, police said.

Burns also pawned a ring belonging to Heard in Marion, according to police.

Burns is currently is serving time in an Indiana prison on a 1999 child molestation conviction. His parole was revoked in December after he entered a guilty plea in Madison County to an unrelated felony charge of resisting law enforcement. Burns’ earliest release date from the Indiana Department of Correction is now April 2014.