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Body identified as that of missing grandfather

By Staff | Nov 4, 2011

A body discovered Thursday night by the Cape Coral police has been positively identified as that of a grandfather who went missing last week.

The Lee County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the remains Friday afternoon as that of James Arthur, 80, of 3519 S.W. 29th Ave. He was last seen on Oct. 27 with his grandson, Garrett Kern, 24, of the same address.

The Arthur family could not be reached for comment Friday.

“Police will continue to work around the clock on this investigation,” Lt. Tony Sizemore, spokesman for the Cape police, wrote in a prepared statement.

Authorities plan to release information as it becomes available.

“More details may not be available for release however for several days,” Sizemore reported.

At about 7 p.m. Thursday, a resident out for a walk made contact with a Cape officer near the 200 block of Old Burnt Store Road. The resident told the officer that he or she had noticed a strong odor in the area recently.

A foot search by police revealed the body of a man approximately 80 yards off of the roadway. Police could not positively identify the body at the time, but the clothes were consist with what Arthur was last seen wearing.

Cape detectives processed the scene for several hours, before returning Friday morning to perform a grid search of the area for trace evidence.

According to Sizemore, the manner of death will not be available until the final autopsy report is completed. That can take several days, if not weeks.

Arthur was last seen on Oct. 27 leaving the probation office in downtown Fort Myers with Kern. He had driven Kern to a probation appointment.

According to police, Kern was seen later that afternoon at the BA Hustlers Pool Hall on Santa Barbara Boulevard South. He was driving his grandfather’s car – a 2009, dark gray Volvo S80 – but Arthur was not present.

While at the Cape pool hall, Kern reportedly made statements to people present that gave rise to concern for the welfare of his grandfather.

Police named Kern as a person of interest in Arthur’s disappearance, also believing that he had fled the area in his grandfather’s Volvo. A warrant was issued for his arrest on the charges of grand theft auto based off of that.

Kern made Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers’ 10 Most Wanted list on Wednesday, before being apprehended on Thursday outside of a shelter in Chicago by the U.S. Marshal’s Service. Police learned that he was there.

Cape detectives flew up to Chicago on Thursday to question Kern.

Sizemore reported Friday that details of the interview with Kern are not being released, nor is information about Arthur’s Volvo. The two detectives followed up on leads in Chicago before returning to the Cape Friday night.

On Thursday, Sizemore did not believe that they had located the Volvo.

The 2009 Volvo S80 has the Florida tag A057QX.

As authorities spent the past week looking for the missing men, family members also organized searches in an effort to find Arthur. A non-profit search and rescue organization was expected to join the effort Saturday.

Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery had been communicating with the Cape police and were scheduled to meet with the department Friday. The organization had intended to start a full-scale search for Arthur today.

The non-profit confirmed Friday that it would no longer be involved with the case as Arthur’s body had been located and positively identified.

Kern was raised by the Arthurs and has been with them since age 3.

Kern is no stranger to law enforcement, according to Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers. He has numerous felony arrests that date back to age 15, when he was picked up on weapons and burglary charges. As an adult, Kern has been jailed six times in the last two years on drug to theft charges.

On Aug. 12, he was arrested for numerous counts of burglary and theft, officials reported. He was released from jail on Oct. 27 on those charges.

Anyone with information on the Kern-Arthur case can contact the CCPD at 574-3223, or submit a tip by texting “CCPD” plus the message to CRIMES or by visiting: www.capecops.com. Tipsters can also contact Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at (800) 780-TIPS (8477) and be eligible for a cash reward.