Wolverine mask could be key in murder case

Wolverine mask could be key in murder case

A stark black and yellow mask from the Marvel Comics character Wolverine might give Jackson County Sheriff's Department detectives a look into the final hours of a man who was murdered along the Bear Creek Greenway outside Central Point in early September.

Investigators discovered the distinctive mask at a campsite near where Troy Dean Carney, 44, was found dead in a sleeping bag Sept. 4, hidden in brush between the Central Point freeway interchange and Table Rock Road.

Four camps were tucked in the blackberry brambles not far from the Pilot truck stop — Carney's and three others, Jackson County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said.

Investigators tracked down a couple who had left one of the camps a few days before the murder likely occurred on Sept. 1 and a man who moved on from one of the others in the weeks following the crime, Fagan said. But at the final abandoned camp, they found only a small dome tent and a scattering of debris and personal items, including the Wolverine mask, which was propped up as if on display.

"It might not have anything to do with the murder, but we hope it can help us narrow down who had camped there," Fagan said.

Investigators want to talk to whoever stayed there to find out if they had seen Carney or anyone with him in the days or hours before he was killed.

Carney had lived in the Rogue Valley 10 years ago, but in the past decade had traveled the country with truckers. He worked as a "lumper," loading and unloading trucks and riding along with the driver, Fagan said.

This summer, Carney rode into the Willamette Valley from Idaho. He decided to visit old friends in the Medford area and stayed with them for a while, but his presence stressed their relationship, they told investigators. Carney planned to camp near the Central Point truck stop until he could find a ride to a larger transportation hub where he could resume his nomadic lifestyle, Fagan said.

Carney ate at the Pilot and used the phones there. In the parking lot, he offered to do odd jobs, such as polishing chrome, for truckers to earn money. He was last seen in surveillance photos at the business on the evening of Sept. 1, wearing camouflage cargo shorts and a dark T-shirt, the same clothes he was found dead in, Fagan said.

"He was pretty friendly," Fagan said. "We're hoping somebody saw him Sept. 1 or later."

Carney's friends thought he had left the area until his mother in Florida called to ask where he was, as she hadn't heard from him and he usually called regularly. His friends called police to see if the man found dead near the Greenway could be Carney. It was.

In the days following the discovery, many of the homeless men moved their camps out of the immediate area because they were afraid, Fagan said.

Around 1 a.m. on Sept. 14, however, someone returned to set a fire in the midst of the now-empty campsites. Distance and natural barriers kept fire crews from the blaze for 24 minutes, so by the time they arrived to douse the flames, no one was around.

Still, investigators say the fire was intentionally set and they suspect it could have been started to cover up evidence and keep detectives away.

They would like to talk to anyone who has information on the fire. They also want information on the mask and who might have owned it. They also would like to talk to anyone else who Carney might have associated with around the time of his death.

Investigators ask people with details on any of this to call the department's tip line at 774-8333.

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