Va. man talks of buzzard sighting near remains

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The Albemarle County landscaper whose tip may have led to the discovery of human remains in the search for Hannah Graham says buzzards pointed the way.

Bobby Pugh tells WTOP and WVTF that as he drove to work one day in late September or early October, his eyes were drawn to the abandoned home at 3193 Old Lynchburg Road, on a winding, narrow stretch of the road that connects Charlottesville to Lynchburg.

“I noticed there was quite a few buzzards on the roof, as well as in the trees in the backyard, maybe 20 to 30 of them,” says Pugh. “They were definitely there scavenging for something.”

Pugh, a hunter, noticed the vultures weren’t the common turkey vultures that are often seen near roadkill.

“These were black vultures — they’ve actually been known to kill newborn calves and deer fawns,” says Pugh. “They don’t just go after carcasses, they’re actually aggressive hunters.”

Like most people in the Charlottesville region, Pugh was aware that 18-year-old Hannah Graham was last seen early Sept. 13, and that Jesse Matthew had been arrested and charged with abducting her.

Police had been asking land owners to search their properties, but since the home had been for sale, Pugh wasn’t sure it had been checked.

Pugh was initially reluctant to call the tip line, because he didn’t want to distract detectives from other angles of the investigation.

“In the back of my mind I was like, ‘Maybe I should call the tip line, I’d feel bad if I didn’t call,'” says Pugh.

At the time, Pugh recalled the one-story home had been for sale for a few years.

“I had thought about stopping in and checking it out, but the ‘For Sale’ sign was gone now, and I thought. ‘Maybe someone purchased it, I don’t want to be a trespasser.'”

Pugh called the tip line, and felt a wave of relief for sharing his observation.

In retrospect, Pugh says learning skeletal remains were discovered in a dry creek bed behind the home didn’t surprise him.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s been abandoned for a few years, there’s access to the back of the house where you can hide,” Pugh says. “When I saw the buzzards, I was thinking two plus two plus two equals six.”

On Sunday, Pugh says he got a phone call from an Albemarle County police detective with follow-up questions about his tip.

Pugh was reluctant to discuss his role in providing the tip, but says he agreed to one interview at the recommendation of his mother.

Several phone calls and texts to Charlottesville and Albemarle County police seeking comment were not immediately returned.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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