Jeff Van Horn was running through the woods behind Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when he spotted a pair of blue Dickey pants and a white T-shirt leaning against a tree.
When he looked closer, Van Horn discovered the body of a man which had been there since August, Prince William County police said.
State police towed the man’s car from the area last year — without realizing that its owner hung himself in the woods with a seatbelt and another belt from the car, according to Detective Dennis Mangan, Prince William police spokesman. It was not clear what the other type of belt was.
The corpse eventually fell to the base of the tree in the position that Van Horn found it.
“It looked to me like a stuffed scarecrow that you see in people’s yards at Halloween time,” Van Horn said. “I took a closer look and realized it wasn’t what I originally thought it was.”
Van Horn, 38, said he couldn’t see the man’s shin bones, because they were probably folded under his thighs. The left arm was missing, but the right arm was there.
The body’s head was gone. It could have rolled behind the body, Van Horn said. He didn’t take the time to look. When he and running partner Russell Steele got back to Van Horn’s store, VA Runner, they called police.
The two were scouting trails for a running group set to go through the eastern county woodlands Wednesday night when they discovered the corpse.
The area around the body was clean, and there was nothing else that was distinguishing, Van Horn said. At the time, he didn’t think to look up to see if anything was in the tree.