Return to story


February 13, 2007 12:50 am



MORE PHOTOS: Click here to view more images of the foot.

What is it? You tell us. Read the story, view the pics, then share your thoughts at the bottom of the story.

Authorities now say that the foot found at a Spotsylvania County landfill is not human, but it's unclear exactly what species it is.

The Virginia medical examiner's office X-rayed the left foot found Saturday at the Livingston Landfill and determined that the 8-inch foot was that of an "apelike species," said Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith.

The medical examiner's office reported those findings early yesterday morning, ending search efforts at the Massey Road landfill. About 35 Spotsylvania fire, rescue and sheriff's personnel were at the site sifting through 127 tons of trash to find more of the body.

That search began Sunday after the foot was found by landfill workers cleaning the treads of a bulldozer used to spread and cover garbage.

The foot appeared to have been cleanly sawed off and resembled that of a human, Smith said. An employee with the Virginia medical examiner's concurred, and the foot was sent to Richmond for forensic testing.

The Free Lance-Star sent photos of the foot to several people who study primates. All disagreed with the state medical examiner's office's conclusions.

Experts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said it looks more like a human foot than that of an apelike species, according to Jordana Lenon, a spokeswoman for the primate center on campus. She said it's difficult to tell without handling it. A colleague of Lenon's said it looked like the skinned-out hind-foot of a bear.

April D. Truitt of the Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky, also said the foot looks more human. She said it's too big to be a monkey; it's more the size of a gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo or orangutan. She said its bone structure leaves the chimp as the only possibility.

"This certainly doesn't resemble the foot of any chimp I've ever met, and I've encountered hundreds in the past two decades," Truitt added.

William Dranginis of Manassas has a more unusual opinion--he believes the foot could be that of Bigfoot. He heads the Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization and has been passionately studying the elusive creature for more than 10 years.

It's also unclear how the foot got to the landfill. Theories have included that it was dumped by a hunter, a taxidermist or a traveling animal exhibitor putting on shows for a fee.

Sheriff Smith said his office's investigation essentially ended when they were told it wasn't a human foot. But he noted that it's against county law to have a pet primate or to dump animal carcasses. It also could be an animal cruelty case.

Mary Beth Sweetland, director of research and investigations at PETA in Norfolk, said she hopes there is further investigation.

"But cruelty-to-animal cases often are given short shrift," Sweetland said.

Smith said his office will open the investigation if someone comes forward with more information. For now, he's thankful the foot isn't that of a human.

"The good news is that we don't have a homicide," he said.

Staff reporter Michael Zitz contributed to this report.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5424

Disposal methods Early speculation about the severed foot discovered Saturday at the Livingston Landfill was that it was human and perhaps the result of a medical amputation.

Mahogany Hart, Mary Washington Hospital spokeswoman, said yesterday that amputated limbs are removed from the operating room and stored in the hospital morgue until all testing is done. Then, a Roanoke company, Sci Med Waste Management, makes weekly pickups and disposes of the limbs by incineration.

--Jim Hall

Experts disagree on the origin of the foot. Some disagree that it is of a primate and believe it appears more human.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.