WINHALL -- Vermont State Police believe the remains of a body found by a hiker exploring trails off of Route 11 in Winhall are those of Helen Holmes, a Townshend woman who has been missing since Sept. 6.
According to a press release from the Vermont State Police, the body was found at about 5 p.m. on Oct. 9.
The Winhall Police Department initially responded to the scene, located the human remains along with a vehicle that matched the description and registration of Holmes' red 2010 Subaru Forester. The body, along with a hand gun, was located approximately 75 feet from the vehicle in the woods.
Detectives with the Vermont State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation were dispatched immediately to the scene. The remains were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for official identification and autopsy.
Based on the evidence collected at the scene it is suspected that the remains are that of Holmes, however official identification is pending. Her family has been notified of the development in the case.
Capt. Ray Keefe, Commander of Troop D, which has barracks in Brattleboro, Rockingham and Royalton, said the Vermont State Police has great sympathy for the family of Holmes.
"The detectives and the uniformed division involved in this case put a lot of effort and work into this and took it personal to find her," said Keefe. "I am proud of their work, but sorry it ended this way."
Based on the evidence collected and previous investigative information, detectives do not suspect foul play; however the case is still on-going pending the official cause of death.
Keefe said the body and the vehicle were found in a very rural area that is barely accessible by a regular vehicle, and only four-wheel-drive vehicles were used by investigators to access the scene.
Holmes was reported to be in the company of her dog, but Keefe said the animal has not been located.
Up until the end of September, the Vermont State Police had been actively taking leads in the search for Holmes and checking for her car on back roads in Windham County, but to no avail.
State Police detectives were also following up other avenues, including her financial records.
Holmes was reported missing by her husband, Steven M. St. Peter, who said she woke up around 8 a.m. and told him she was going to tend to animals on their farm. Around 10 a.m., St. Peter said he awoke to a note telling him she would be back later.
"She said, ‘I love you,' but I haven't heard from her ever since," he told the Reformer shortly after her disappearance.
The Vermont Civil Air Patrol assisted with an aerial search conducted on the Jamaica and Townshend on Sept. 14, but turned up nothing.
"It is very difficult to locate somebody who doesn't want to be found," said Keefe.
As a policy, the Reformer doesn't normally report suicides or possible suicides out of sensitivity to the family members involved. However, in this case there was an extensive search conducted for Holmes, who was a well-known and well-liked member of her community. Because of previous reporting on her disappearance and the search for her, the Reformer editorial board felt it necessary to report on her death.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.