Relatives of a New Brunswick man who disappeared last summer are searching for answers after they say his body was "left for garbage" in a remote Nova Scotia community.
Police announced Tuesday that the remains discovered north of Middle Sackville earlier this month have been identified as those of Darren Campbell Jones. New Brunswick RCMP are now investigating his death as a homicide.
"We're going through stages of sad and angry," said Jones' niece Dreama Smith, who lives in Windsor, N.S. "We're pretty mad right now.
"We in our hearts feel like he was just left for garbage. That's what hurts the most."
Jones, 57, of Maquapit Lake, a small community about 28 kilometres southwest of Minto, was reported missing by his family on July 25.
The father of six had not been seen since he left his home the first week of July, driving his black 2017 GMC Canyon.
Family members told CBC News at the time that Jones might have been on his way to Halifax to buy a vehicle, but he never showed up to make the purchase.
'We in our hearts feel like he was just left for garbage. That's what hurts the most.' - Dreama Smith, niece
Smith said Tuesday that news of his death is "quite devastating — especially to hear it's a homicide."
She remembers her uncle as a "funny, outgoing character."
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She said the family's grief is compounded by the lack of information from police.
"They can't tell us anything" because they don't want to compromise the investigation.
"We understand that and we respect it," she said, but it's still difficult.
"We just want to find out who is responsible and go from there."
Cause of death not released
A hunter found the remains in woods off East Uniacke Road, on Dec. 2, shortly after 9:30 a.m., and called Nova Scotia RCMP.
An autopsy was performed and the remains were positively identified as being Jones, said New Brunswick RCMP Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh.
She declined to release the cause of death, or say whether any weapons were involved or why police are treating the case as a homicide.
"That would be part of the ongoing investigation," she said.
Smith said police confirmed Jones's identity on Saturday and told the family he likely died in July, when he disappeared.
"He laid there for five months, from what we can tell."
The grisly discovery has at least provided "some kind of closure" for the family, said Smith.
She is a tour bus operator and has been searching "every corner" for him for the past five months.
"I was hoping he would pop out in front of my bus."
Now, the family won't be "constantly looking for him," she said.
The area where Jones was found, between Evangeline Trail and Beaver Bank Road, is "very rural," Cpl. Jennifer Clarke has said, adding she didn't believe there are any homes nearby.
Police in Nova Scotia found Jones's pickup truck abandoned in the Stewiacke area — approximately 50 kilometres northeast of East Uniacke Road — just prior to his being reported missing.
2nd homicide in area
RCMP are investigating the death of another Minto-area man last summer as a homicide.
The body of Ronald Richard, 50, was found on a rural property in Hardwood Ridge, a community about 10 kilometres north of Minto, on July 23.
Police have said they do not believe it was a random homicide but have not provided any other details.
Richard used to be a member of the Bacchus motorcycle club.
But a Facebook post by a Robin Moulton, a Fredericton man identified by RCMP as a full-patch member of the Hells Angels, described Richard as the "fallen president" of the Gate Keepers' Capital City chapter.
The club has been described by police as a "farm team" for the Hells Angels."
Moulton is in custody facing 12 charges, most of which relate to firearms, namely a high-powered rifle with a silencer and a loaded 9-mm handgun, which he'd been banned from possessing for life.
He was Facebook friends with Richard.
Nothing ruled out
Members of Jones's family don't know if there's any connection between the two homicides, according to his niece.
"I don't know if that will come up whether it's connected or whatever," Smith said. "We worried that it was and we still don't know that it is.
"Police have never given us any indication that anything was connected."
Jones was friends with Bacchus members but wasn't a member himself, said Smith, noting the only motorcycle jacket he wore was an orange and black one with Harley Davidson written on it.
"Just because you are friends and you socially see people doesn't make you a member of it," she said. "I think that's where people get confused."
Asked about any possible connection between the two homicides, Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP haven't ruled anything out.
"We're looking at all aspects and are making no assumptions," she said.
"At this point, we're trying to determine what happened to Darren Jones and we're trying to determine who was involved and who would be responsible for his death."
No funeral arrangements have been made yet, partly because police haven't released the body, said Smith.
The family is also widely dispersed. Jones's six children, who range in age from eight to adult, live in four different provinces, she said.
His daughter, Farren Colford of Calgary, previously described her father as "an extraordinary man" with a hard head and a good heart.
It was not uncommon for him to leave town without telling anyone, she said, but family members feared "the worst" because he hadn't paid his rent and his phone was turned off.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the New Brunswick RCMP's major crime unit at 506-452-3491, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.