Big Stone Gap Police Chief Steve Hamm said at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday officers responded to a report of a possible body in the river near the old Maloney's store off Pennington Gap Highway, or U.S. Route 58-A, right at the western edge of town limits.
Hamm said a "badly decomposed" human body was retrieved approximately 6 feet from the riverbank and transported to the state medical examiner's office in Roanoke for identification and to determine the cause of death.
Hamm said the body was sighted "by a couple of individuals on the riverbank picking berries."
Hamm's department has been in contact with the family of 60-year-old Terry Jay 'Ghost' Bishop of Big Stone Gap, his brother, Robert Bishop, confirmed on Wednesday. Terry Bishop has been missing from his home, located in the Little Italy Bottom section of Big Stone Gap, since May 9.
Robert Bishop said police went to the home of another of Terry Bishop's brothers, Midge Bishop, who resides next door to the missing brother, on Tuesday night to collect a DNA sample for comparative purposes.
Hamm emphasized on Wednesday there is no way to connect the body found in the river Tuesday evening with Terry 'Ghost' Bishop unless and until the medical examiner makes such a determination.
The body located on Tuesday is unidentifiable even as to gender, Hamm said.
"We're doing all that we can right now to determine who this individual is," he said. "We're still at the investigating part right now at this time with the assistance of the Wise County Sheriff's Department and the Virginia State Police."
Robert Bishop said his family is prepared to hear the worst if need be.
"In ways, it will be closure to the family if it is him. He could be alive, but we kind of doubt it by now," he said. "But chances are it is him. It's better to know. We definitely want to know. All the family knows what's going on right now, the sisters in Florida and Ohio, and nieces and nephews all over. We just don't know. But chances are it's him, and we'll just have to go from there."
For more on this developing story read tomorrow's print edition of the Times-News.
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