Body discovered in ditch
The case is being treated as a homicide "due to the condition of the body and the limited information we had out there," sheriff's Capt. Todd Christiansen said.
Christiansen said Monday night that investigators do not know who the deceased is, but he hopes clues will be found during the autopsy, scheduled this morning at the Dane County morgue.
No one has been reported missing in the area, he said.
The woman, who is white, appeared to be unclothed, although that is not certain because the body was covered with snow, and investigators did not thaw the body, hoping to preserve evidence for the autopsy, Christiansen said.
"We weren't able to view the body that well at the scene. That's why we're waiting for the autopsy," Christiansen said.
For the same reason, it was hard to tell whether the body had suffered any violent injuries, he said.
Christiansen said a lack of clothing suggests sexual assault to him, which is one reason the body will undergo a full forensic autopsy.
A landowner in Avon Township found the snow-covered body at noon while walking his property near the southwest corner of Nelson and Avon North Townline roads in Rock County, Christiansen said.
The body was found in a wooded area several feet off the west side of Nelson Road, about 100 yards south of Avon North Townline Road. The area is surrounded by farmland between Orfordville and Brodhead. Officials said they were treating the ditch as a crime scene.
Investigators collected evidence surrounding the body in an area about 60-feet-by-30-feet before approaching it and removing it from the snow, Christiansen said.
The search yielded potential items of evidence, Christiansen said, but nothing to identify the woman.
Christiansen would not comment on whether any blood was found.
Christiansen could not say how long the body had been there.
"Our guess is, it was there through several snowstorms because it seemed like it was covered with several layers of snow," he said. "So several weeks is what we're thinking right now. Could be longer; it might not be that long. We'll have a better idea of the time frame after the autopsy."
The last big snow in the area was Jan. 17, when 7 inches was measured in nearby Janesville. A few small snowfalls since then have totaled about 2.5 inches.
Deputies quickly closed Nelson Road after arriving at the scene. About eight patrol cars with lights flashing parked along the road. Investigators wore rubber gloves.
A deputy coroner arrived later. Two pickup trucks with tarps and shovels also showed up.
Investigators hoped to have most of the crime scene investigation done before the expected snowstorm, Christiansen said. Nelson Road remained closed for several hours.