Body found in Bennington river; death deemed 'suspicious'

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BENNINGTON — A man walking his dog discovered the body in the waters of Roaring Branch on Sunday morning, neighbors said yesterday.

The female body, which has not been identified, was found in the river off Caroline Drive. Bennington police described the death as "suspicious."

Andrew Brown, who lives by the riverbank on Caroline Drive, said he went outdoors at 8 a.m. Sunday but didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. About 3-1/2 hours later, he saw police cars driving up the road and learned that a neighbor who had been out walking his dog had reported seeing a body in the water.

"It's not something you're gonna wake up looking for," Brown said, adding he didn't see or hear anything suspicious before the body was found.

Clad in a dark top and leggings, the body lay facedown on one of the many rocks in the shallow water, as seen in a cellphone video taken by a neighbor and shown to the Banner. The lower part of her top covered her head, exposing her back.

The man who discovered the body initially "thought she was a mannequin," neighborhood resident Mark DeBay said, recounting their conversation. The man didn't immediately respond to messages asking for a comment.

Brown and DeBay, who both saw the body before authorities took it away around 3 p.m. Sunday, described the female as white but didn't have any idea of her age or how long the body might have been in the river.

Local police said officers were dispatched at 11:35 a.m. for a report of an unresponsive person in the Roaring Branch. The Bennington Rescue Squad, Bennington Fire Department and North Bennington Fire Department also were dispatched to the scene.

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Officers entered the river and immediately determined that the person was dead, according to a Sunday afternoon news release from the Bennington Police Department. It described the incident as a "suspicious death" and said the identity of the deceased was still unknown.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Bennington County State's Attorney's Office joined police detectives in investigating the scene, according to the release.

No updates were available from the police department or the medical examiner's office as of Monday afternoon.

This apparently wasn't the first body discovered in the Roaring Branch in recent decades. Banner archives show that in May 2006, a middle-aged man's body was found in the river behind Kmart by two teenagers taking a walk.

Sometime around 1990, DeBay said, a male body was found by the river near his home. Available records did not indicate the cause of death in either of these cases.

Brown moved to Caroline Drive in August, liking the peace and quiet in the area. On Monday morning, a breeze ruffled the red, yellow and orange leaves in the surrounding trees as squirrels flitted around.

The river flowed quietly, oblivious to Brown's new concern for his well-being in the wake of the body's discovery.

"I don't really feel safe anymore," he said. "I hope something like that doesn't happen again."

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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