© 2022 Cincinnati Public Radio
Connecting You to a World of Ideas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Search Underway for Kenton County Man Missing Since 1980

Courtesy of Kenton County Police
Searching area near Kincaid Lake State Park.

Randy Sellers disappeared from southern Kenton County on August 16, 1980.

Nearly 39 years later the search actively continues for him.

Kenton County Police and other agencies are joined by a professor and 37 students from Towson University in Maryland at a site near Kincaid Lake State Park in Pendleton County.

The forensics students and investigators are following up after a K9 officer identified there may be or may have been human remains nearby.

Kenton County Police Chief Spike Jones told WVXU on Monday that the students are mostly searching near the surface of the ground.

"This isn't what you would classify as a large excavation process. It's more of a surface cleaning and examination of surface area specific to what the dog indicated on," Jones said.

Jones said the department has received tips about Sellers' disappearance annually since the beginning, including during the four years that he has led the county department after serving in the same role for Covington Police. 

"I know the investigation is ongoing and work has been done on it since the beginning," Jones said.

Though it is unclear what happened to Sellers, what is known is that he was picked up by police at the Kenton County Fair that August, reportedly for public drunkenness. Jones said Sellers was involved in a fight. A police officer was taking Sellers home, but the teen told the officer to let him out near some railroad tracks, saying he would walk the rest of the way.

Sellers was never heard from again.

Credit Courtesy of Polly Klaas Foundation
Randy Sellers

Jones said that serial killer Donald Leroy Evans, who was stabbed to death in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in 1999, claimed to have killed Sellers. Evans was known to have killed three women but reportedly claimed to have killed dozens more.

"During the investigation into Donald Leroy Evans, he made indications that he may have been involved in Sellers's disappearance," Jones said. "Police believe Evans passed through Kincaid Lake State Park close to the time Sellers went missing."

Dana Kollman, a clinical associate professor at Towson University, said she brought her team of students to Pendleton County after being asked about the case by the K9 organization that first identified the site as a location where Sellers' body may have been discarded.

Kollman and students had previously worked cold cases in Kentucky and Tennessee, she said. 

So far, the work, she said, indicates the digging is touching limestone at about two-and-a-half feet, which tells her that Sellers, if he was placed there at all, was likely discarded in a shallow grave or natural depression and then covered with soil.

"The idea we're looking for a true sense burial is very unlikely," Kollman said. The shallowness of where Sellers' body may have been placed would have made him more accessible to animal predators "and things that would distribute remains."

"We know we're looking for a needle in a haystack," she said.

But she has found a needle before.

While investigating a case in Tennessee, one of Kollman's students began sifting through a small body of water with her hands where she located a tooth. That tooth led to the positive identification of a missing person in another cold case. 

She said tooth enamel, hair, and parts of the skeleton hold up over the years, as do some articles of clothing like leather or rubber and denim. Sellers was wearing boots with rubber soles that day, along with denim jeans.

"Even if we don't find anything, it's not a loss," Kollman said. "What we can say to the Cotton family (Sellers' relatives) is we can say we don't know where he is. But we do know where he isn't, which is on the side of the mountain at Kincaid Lake State Park."