Cass County human remains cases show grave side of mushroom hunting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the second time in April, a mushroom hunter found human remains in the wild in Cass County.

On Tuesday, a mushroom hunter found the remains of an unidentified man on East 278th Street near State Route DD.

Earlier in April, a mushroom hunter found a set of human remains near 233rd Street and Route Y Highway in Cass County. Investigators later found a second set of human remains. The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office identified one set of the human remains as missing Raymore woman Jessica Runions.




The discovery of remains in Cass County in April helped shed a light on the grave findings mushroom hunters occasionally come across.

Chrissie Keck, who said she has hunted for morel mushrooms for the last 40 years, said this month's findings did not shock her.

"It seems like a mushroom hunter finds a body or bones or something every year," she explained.

Keck and her partner, Toni Townsend, often go mushroom hunting together.

On a recent search in Weston in which 41 Action News joined them, the pair looked near a city park.

Using sticks from trees close by, the two looked under leaves and around dead trees.

"We stay close in the vicinity so we're combing through that land like we're not going to miss one," explained Townsend. "You come up on a first mushroom, she (Keck) and I have a certain call."

The two women said the mushroom hunting community stays in contact and sometimes posts findings.

Townsend and Keck said official maps showing where mushrooms have been found in the state can be accessed online, and the 600-member "Missouri Morel Mushroom Hunting" Facebook group helps others communicate about the activity.

"Everybody posts that they found some or if they didn't and where they're at," said Keck.

Keck told 41 Action News that aside from using the mushrooms for cooking, they can often lead to lucrative rewards.

"Up around here (Weston), I've gotten as much as $35 a pound," she said. "But if I went to City Market in Kansas City, they could get like $60 a pound."

Chrissie Keck (left) and Toni Townsend (right) are mushroom hunters in the Kansas City area.

Morel mushrooms are found out in the woods, and can require hunters to hike into desolate spots.

Both Townsend and Keck said the areas where mushrooms can be found can also likely attract someone trying to hide a crime.

"A lot of places where a morel mushroom hunter goes, a person doesn't always walk through there," Townsend explained.

While the team said they would continue hunting for mushrooms, news of the human remains being found in Cass County in April left them unsettled.

"I'm not surprised by any means," Townsend explained. "It makes me a little more paranoid or on edge."

The man whose body was found Tuesday is believed to have been in the field for less than a month. Officials don't think this is going to close any missing persons cases in the area. 

The Jackson County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy Wednesday morning and is working to identify the body and find out how the man died. 

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