Veteran’s remains indicate homicide
By Patrick Yost
Six years to the day he was reported missing, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office last Friday announced that bones found in the vicinity of Old Mill and Estes roads are that of Iraqi war veteran Jason Roark.
Roark was first reported missing in Gwinnett County on Nov. 9, 2006.
According to Capt. Chris Bish, Investigation Division, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, samples of the human remains found after exhaustive searches in the area, approximately one mile south of the Interstate 20 rest area where Roark’s abandoned black Honda was located, were confirmed by lab specialists at the University of North Texas. Bish said authorities matched DNA from the remains with a sample provided by Roark’s mother, Terry Roark.
Roark's vehicle was first found at the rest area on Dec. 13, 2006 by a private investigator who searched a 50-mile radius around a Gwinnett motel room Roark stayed in the night before he went missing.
Bish said authorities have determined that Roark’s death was a homicide but are not releasing the cause of his death. “Evidence at the scene indicated he died at the hands of another person,” Bish said.
He said investigators have determined that Roark spent a few hours at the Gwinnett Inn, checking in at 4 a.m., before he made a final cell phone call at 7 a.m. Bish said during the time at the room there were "a series of visitors" at the room. At 11 a.m. the room had been vacated. Bish said phone and bank records indicated that Roark made no further calls after 7 a.m. and did not use credit or debit cards since checking into the motel.
Roark was an honorably discharged U.S. Army war veteran who completed two tours in Iraq. Bish said he was a sergeant in a psychological services unit in the army. He was discharged on May 16, 2005 and was employed at the Texas Roadhouse, a Snellville restaurant, at the time of his disappearance.
Bish said on November 10 Terry Roark notified Gwinnett County Police officers that her son was missing.
In September, 2008, more than 200 local authorities and volunteers from the Georgia State Defense Force, combed the wooded area near the rest area in an attempt to locate Roark's remains but failed.
In May, 2011 a family pet of a Morgan County residence delivered a human skull to the back porch of the residence. Since that discovery, Bish said, authorities searched more than 100 acres of wooded area near the rest area. Using tracking devices for the both the family pet and another dog in the area, authorities eventually located an area that yielded several human remains. Last week those remains were positively identified as that of the soldier. Roark was 27–years–old when he was reported missing.
"We suspected all along that it was going to be him based on the circumstances," Bish said.
Since the identification of the remains, Morgan authorities have began an active investigation into Roark's death. Bish said he hoped news of the positive identification of the remains may spark further leads in the case. "People involved in this case might have confided in others," he said. "We are hoping to reach out to that third party."
Bish said Morgan County investigators have started the process of finding and interviewing persons that were knowledgeable of Roark's final days before he disappeared.
Bish said Roark was an only child. Bish said the family had a funeral for Roark two years ago "when they gave up hope."
He said Roark will have a military funeral this week.
Bish said authorities hoped that renewed interest in the case would "generate leads to help us out."
"We've got this gap (of time) that we are trying to overcome."
Bish said authorities hope to determine the exact cause of Roark's death. "It's not suicide and its incumbent on us to get to the bottom of it," he said.
Bish said authorities believe that someone has information regarding the death of Roark. "Hopefully their morals and values will help them do the right thing."
Morgan County officials are requesting that anyone with information regarding the death of Roark contact the sheriff's office at 706 342 1507.
Printed in the November 15, 2012 edition