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story.lead_photo.caption Little Rock Police Capt. Russell King passes a memorial for Ebby Steppach as he works Tuesday at Chalamont Park in west Little Rock. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Skeletal human remains were discovered inside a drainage pipe at a west Little Rock park Tuesday as police were following up on an investigation into the disappearance Ebby Steppach.

Crime scene tape on Tuesday blocked off an area of the parking lot at Chalamont Park, where Steppach's car was found days after she was reported missing in October 2015 when she was 18 years old.

Officer Steve Moore, a Little Rock police spokesman, said the human remains were found inside a drainage pipe after investigators with the department's cold-case unit went to the park around 10:30 a.m. and started to follow up on the Steppach case.

The remains were not identified by police Tuesday, and it was unclear when an identification would be completed. The remains would be sent to the state medical examiner's office, Moore said.

The city's Public Works Department raised the pipe for police, which is when the remains were discovered, Moore said. He said the pipe runs along the back of the park and begins not far from where Steppach's vehicle was found.

A tip did not lead cold-case investigators to the pipe, he said. Instead, Moore said the discovery happened as investigators were following up and using "gut instinct."

Authorities had searched the park in November 2016 in connection with Steppach's disappearance, police previously reported.

"We've never given up on this," Moore said of the case.

Little Rock police, the Pulaski County coroner's office and an FBI evidence response team were at the scene Tuesday, he said.

Moore, speaking Tuesday afternoon from the scene, said the only remains so far discovered were skeletal. Authorities, he said, were still working at the scene.

"We still have dirt and other debris that's been pushed through that pipe," he said.

[IN-DEPTH LOOK: Story, photos, timeline, audio on the search for Ebby Steppach]

Police said Steppach's disappearance is still considered a missing-person case.

Inside the police tape on Tuesday, a memorial to Steppach could be seen at the base of a parking lot light pole. It featured colorful flowers and purple ribbons tied to the pole.

A representative for Steppach's family sent a news release Tuesday afternoon that said the family was waiting to "confirm the findings of this investigation," before speaking publicly about the matter. The statement was also posted in the "Official: Find Ebby Steppach" Facebook page, which has more than 19,000 members.

Steppach's grandmother, Peggy Holman, posts messages to her missing granddaughter on the site nearly every night to let her know she loves her and she misses her, Holman told a reporter in an earlier interview.

"Sweetie you are not forgotten and you will be home," one post reads in part.

According to the initial police report, Steppach's mother, Laurie Jernigan, told police that she had last seen her daughter on Oct. 24, 2015, two days before she reported her daughter missing.

Steppach had talked with her brother the day before she was reported missing, but she refused to say where she was and hung up the phone before turning it off, according to the report.

The mother told police that her son said Steppach "sounded like she was high on drugs," according to the October 2015 police report.

The brother was the last person to hear from her; she called him Oct. 25, 2015, sounding panicked, Jernigan told an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter in an earlier interview.

He asked where she was. She said she was in her car, parked in front of his house. He hung up and went outside to meet her, but she wasn't there.

He called back and asked again where she was. She insisted she was with her car, but didn't know where it was parked or who she was with.

"I'm f****d up," she told him just before hanging up.

Police found Steppach's car five days later at the park. The gas tank was empty, the battery was dead and the keys were still in the ignition. Her phone, wallet and contact lenses were on the front seat of the 2003 Volkswagen Passat.

Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team arrive Tuesday at Chalamont Park in west Little Rock where police found human remains.

Metro on 05/23/2018

Print Headline: Human bones found in pipe at LR park; Missing teen’s car left at site in 2015

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