NEWAYGO, Mich. (WOOD) - Authorities exhumed the body of Shannon Siders at the Newaygo City Cemetery Thursday to help bring closure to this 23-year-old murder case.
Siders was 18 when she left her father's Newaygo County home to go swimming on July 17, 1989 and never returned.
After an intensive search, her badly beaten body was found Oct. 15 in a wooded area near M-82 and Thornapple Road in Brooks Township in the Manistee National Forest. An autopsy determined the death as a homicide.
An investigation spanning two decades has tracked down leads and followed every available piece of evidence, but investigators have yet to identify a suspect.
Finally, the decision was made to exhume Siders' body. It's a rare move usually made only as a last resort to find clues.
"This is something we don't take lightly," said MSP Lt. Cameron Henke. "We're doing something that could obviously be emotionally difficult for the family. This isn't something we routinely do. This is something that we spent a lot of time thinking about."
Her father, Bob Siders, was at the grave in Newaygo when her body was removed from the ground.
"I was OK with (the exhumation,)" he told 24 Hour News 8. "I've known for a while it was going to take place. But one of the forensic personnel (involved in the exhumation) was out of the country. ... I was never opposed to it."
The last time Bob Siders saw Shannon, he was leaving for work.
"I kissed her on the forehead and said, 'I'll see you tomorrow,'" he recalled. "That's the last time I saw her. That's the last memory I have of her."
When asked what he would say to his daughter's killer, he was to the point.
"Well, you've gotten away with this for 23 years and it's not going to be much longer. We've got a good cold case team. I've met all these guys ... And a special pair of handcuffs is going to go on you soon."
In December 2011, the Michigan State Police convened a Shannon Siders task force. Michigan State Police, Newaygo County Sheriff's Department, Newaygo City Police Department and Newaygo County Prosecutor Robert Springstead are handling the case.
State police say the cold case task team has interviewed more than 300 people.
The task force has consulted with a forensic pathologist, a forensic anthropologist and Siders' family. Information gathered in the discussions, as well as advancements in forensic science, have prompted authorities to exhume the body in search of more answers.
"We're at a point where we felt that we needed to exhume the body," said Lt. Henke. "We're looking at the advances that have been made in forensic science over the past 20 years and some of the information we recently gathered. We felt this was the logical next step for us to move the investigation forward."
Among those advances is technology in DNA identification and matching.
"They're going to look at everything," said Henke. "We brought in experts in both the field of pathology and anthropology and we're going to give this a complete look."
A forensic pathologist and a forensic anthropologist from MSU will help examine the body. It's not yet known how long the examination will take.
Bob Siders said Shannon's body will be returned to her grave in a private family service when police are done with the examination.
"She's going to take a little trip today; she'll be back in her gravesite soon enough," he said.
Also at the gravesite was documentary filmmaker David Schock. His film, "Who Killed Janet Chandler?" led to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for her 1979 rape, kidnap and murder. Schock also produced a film, "Into the Dark," about the disappearance and death of Shannon Siders.