A strong odor in the area of Spesutia and Cranberry Roads in Perryman on Monday afternoon led police to a badly decomposed body under a nearby bridge, and the fact that the male victim's head had been separated from his body fueled false speculation that he had been murdered.
"What happens---a body starts to decompose,” said Major William Davis with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, “It starts to come apart, and also animals in those areas will also start to investigate and pull bones to different locations as well so there was nothing really suspicious just because the head was detached."
But the cyber-sleuths on social media were just getting started.
Another pair of unattended deaths in the area, including a person who suffered a medical emergency and fell and hit their head, soon fueled a Facebook frenzy.
"The rumor mill on social media just started to grow after we had put out that we found the body that there were different body parts found up and down Route 40 in the trunks of cars,” said Davis, “All that is completely untrue."
Police say they can't afford to spend as much time dismissing false reports of crime as they do solving the real ones, and they're appealing to the public to help them get their facts straight.
"It most certainly taxes our resources, particularly our Public Information Office, who then has to deal with every single person who wants to spread those rumors and what we would say, if you have a question about what's really occurring? Call one of our precincts. Call headquarters. Call our Public Information Office or send a message to social media," said Davis, "If you have a question about something we put out or a crime that occurred, we will get back to you and we'll give you the truth. We're not going to hide something from you."
Police suspect the victim found beneath the bridge may have been homeless, and there were no signs of foul play, but if an autopsy reveals any evidence of a crime, they say they'll be the first ones to let us know.