Burned vehicle of missing Bessemer senior found with remains inside

James Morrison
James Morrison

BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — Police say 75-year-old James Morrison’s 2014 Kia Sedona was found destroyed by fire in a wooded area in Shelby County on Monday evening. It was recovered Tuesday morning.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are working together–and with the Shelby County Coroner’s Office–to identify remains found inside of the burned minivan. The van was discovered by a local on a four-wheeler in a heavily-wooded area, Monday evening.

Morrison's vehicle was found in a remote area of Shelby County with remains inside. (CBS42/Leigh Garner)
Morrison’s vehicle was found in a remote area of Shelby County with remains inside. (CBS42/Leigh Garner)

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) allowed police to positively identify the vehicle as the one driven by Morrison, who has been missing from the Bessemer area since January 3, 2016.

According to family members, Morrison left home that day to get lunch for his disabled wife. Investigators believe he was last seen somewhere near Pelham High School. Morrison suffers from dementia and diabetes, and did not have his medicine when he disappeared.

CBS 42 spoke to Joe Brasher, Associate Pastor at Grant Street Baptist Church, earlier in the day–before the news broke that remains had been found inside the van. Morrison and his family attend the church regularly, and the congregation has been very involved in search for Morrison. “Just not knowing is bad,” explained Brasher. “Just to get a sense of relief–to know what has happened…that’s what we’re looking for.”

A sticky note represents an area covered in the search at Morrison's family church. (CBS42/Leigh Garner)
A sticky note represents an area covered in the search at Morrison’s family church. (CBS42/Leigh Garner)

Members had volunteered to look for Morrison and the vehicle for weeks since he was last seen. There is a map inside the church that is covered in yellow sticky notes. Each one indicates a place that crews have explored.

“Ever since it happened, almost every prayer that’s prayed in church — the Morrison family has been mentioned,” said Brasher.

In a release, Sheriff Samaniego asked Morrison’s family and friends for patience as the body is identified. “My heart goes out to the Morrison family as they wait on official word of the van’s occupant,” he said. “This is one of those occasions where I know the possible outcome will bring grief to an already grieving family and I wish I had the words to help them with their loss.”

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