Abdalla, Hanlin confirm missing Toronto woman is dead

Human remains located at 427 County Road 42 are those of 36-year-old Stephanie Pytash, who has been missing since February. Officials believe Michael Shane, a longtime resident of Toronto, is responsible for her death.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla and county prosecutor Jane Hanlin confirmed Wednesday morning that Stephanie Pytash, a Toronto woman who has been missing since February, is dead, and the case is being ruled a homicide.

Pytash had just gotten out of jail when she went missing 7 months ago.

Officials believe the the believe charred human remains located at 427 County Road 42 are those of the 36-year-old Pytash. And they believe Michael Shane, a longtime resident of Toronto, is the person responsible for the crime.

Shane will be charged with gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in County Court in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon, Hanlin said, adding more charges may be forthcoming.

Shane does not own the home along County Road 42. It belongs to a David Willard, a truck driver who is often out of town, according to Abdalla. Officials do not consider him a suspect.

“We don’t believe he had any knowledge of the situation at all,” Hanlin said.

Members of the Toronto Police Department, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, FBI, U.S. Marshals, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the county drug task force all worked on what Abdalla called a “long and tedious investigation.”

Tips poured in, including evidence that Pytash’s food stamp card was being used in both Steubenville and Columbus. Eventually, attention focused on the home along County Road 42.

Investigators believe Pytash’s body was burned in a fire pit outside the home.

“There was evidence found inside the house that lead us to believe there was a crime committed inside that house. And of course, it was outside, too,” Abdalla said.

Abdalla said he knew Pytash from when she was a young girl.

“She was a good person,” he said. “She was a daughter, a sister, and a mother. She was a young girl who got caught up in a rough world where she made some wrong decisions.”

Abdalla also credited Stephanie’s mother, who he said never did stop looking for her daughter and was continually providing investigators with information.

Watch the news conference below:

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