HOPEWELL — While the man found dead along Route 96 in Phelps late Tuesday night still had not been identified as of Wednesday evening, police believe they know where he was killed.
“We feel the crime occurred there. We believe he was shot there,” Ontario County Sheriff Kevin Henderson said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “We don’t feel he was dumped there.”
The body was found about 10:30 p.m. near Hayes Road, after a passing driver saw someone on the ground, turned around and called 911. Henderson said deputies were close by and at the scene within minutes.
The man, whose ethnicity was not disclosed, was in his late 20s to early 30s. He had a gunshot wound to his upper body.
The body was taken to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. Henderson wasn’t sure if the autopsy would be completed Wednesday or Thursday.
There was no identification found with the body, and Henderson said the sheriff’s office is working with other police agencies, both close to Ontario County and across the state if it involves a missing person report.
Henderson said anyone who may have been in the area between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. is urged to call the sheriff’s office at (585) 396-4638 or go to ontariosheriff.org and use the non-emergency tip sheet.
“At this point, we are really trying to ID this person. He was not there very long,” Henderson said. “We don’t feel there is any danger to the public and this was an isolated incident.”
Henderson said police collected evidence at the scene, but he did not want to detail what was collected. He referred to that stretch of Route 96 as a busy highway during the day but not at night.
Undersheriff Dave Frasca said there are very few homes in the area. The area is near a gravel business and quarry, and Henderson said police did an extensive search of the area after the body was found.
Henderson didn’t rule out the possibility that the man had been in a vehicle on the Thruway before being shot.
“Everything is on the table at this point,” he said. “The Thruway is literally five minutes down the road.”
Henderson said nearby homeowners who have exterior cameras or people driving in the area Tuesday night with dashboard cameras are urged to contact the sheriff’s office if they have potentially important footage. He said it is the first homicide in the county this year other than drug-related deaths.
“We feel this is a very safe county. We will do our due diligence investigating this case,” he said. “As the case progresses, hopefully we will start having answers.”