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Why would someone look for a missing person in a pile of manure?

When friends, family and police went searching for Douglas W. Mess, a Wyoming County dairy farmer, earlier this week, they looked for roughly eight hours before discovering his body buried beneath a huge pile of manure.

But what would prompt someone to think of searching a manure pile?

The two civilians combing the back part of the farm thought that something just wasn’t right about the manure pile and the area around it, authorities said.

The pile appeared to be recently disturbed.

Further investigation led to the gruesome discovery, the slain 52-year-old farmer and mechanic buried beneath three feet of manure Monday evening.

Once the two searchers – who were members of a larger search party made up of citizens and New York State Police – found the body, troopers declared the site a crime scene and everyone, except law enforcement, was ordered to leave the farm on Exchange Street Road in the Town of Attica, according to an area resident who helped in the search.

Farmers sometimes use manure piles and manure ponds to dispose of dead farm animals because bacteria in the manure is known to break down physical remains, local residents said.

“The bacteria decomposes animals quickly in a manure pile,” said one farmer, who asked that his name be withheld. “This type of disposal happens, say, when you have a dead calf.”

The dairy farmer explained that if a manure pile is disturbed, the exterior color changes.

“It is sort of like a pile of dirt. Its color changes after it has been exposed to the air for awhile. But if you move some of that dirt around, you can see that it has been disturbed because it is a different color and the shape of the pile has changed,” the farmer said.

Charlene M. Mess, 48, has been charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of her husband of 30 years. Authorities believe she struck him with a blunt object that killed him. His hands were bound behind his back and his body was transported, apparently with a small tractor, to the manure pile some 300 yards from the farm’s main buildings.

Wyoming County District Attorney Donald G. O’Geen has declined to comment on the case because the investigation remains active and a cause of death from the autopsy is pending. His office expects to present the case to a grand jury in late May or early June.

The slaying is believed to have occurred Sunday night, following an argument.

Charlene Mess on Friday remained incarcerated at the Wyoming County Jail.