NESHANNOCK TWP., Pa. (WKBN) – Butler police believe a body found in Neshannock Township Monday night is that of a young mother reported missing last week.
Around 7 p.m. Monday, a 911 call came in to report a body found along Old Pulaski Road.
Pennsylvania State Police believe the body is that of 26-year-old Melissa Barto, of Butler County. Investigators are still waiting for the coroner to confirm an identity, which will happen after an autopsy at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“There was substantial physical and forensic evidence at the scene and at this point, based upon the jewelry, clothing, and some other characteristics, we wholeheartedly believe that it is Melissa,” said Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Eric Hermick.
Ishemer Ramsey, 21, who police identified as Barto’s boyfriend, was arrested Friday and charged with her death. Police said Ramsey told a friend that he shot Barto in his car.
Ramsey’s car smelled like bleach and the passenger seat was missing, according to police.
“By all accounts, this victim was a respectable young woman. The guy that killed her is a monster and what he did to her is beyond description,” Lt. Hermick said.
Investigators are dealing with multiple crime scenes, two vehicles and several suspects.
Police have also charged James Howard-George and Joshua Bowser in the case.
Police believe Howard-George helped Ramsey move Barto’s body to where it was found.
“After she was killed, she was placed in one location and concealed there for a short period of time until he solicited [Howard-George’s] help to remove the body,” Lt. Hermick said.
He’s charged with criminal conspiracy, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. Investigators said he is being cooperative with police.
Bowser, who was arrested later Tuesday afternoon, is charged with conspiracy of tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse and obstruction of justice.Watch: Woman’s body found in Neshannock Township
Barto was reported missing Thursday after she didn’t show up to her child’s kindergarten graduation, according to Butler police.
Law enforcement searched the area in Neshannock Township Monday night with flashlights, looking for evidence in the brush.
Police said they found evidence at the scene that was purchased at Walmart, which they’re linking to Ramsey.
“There’s a lot of video evidence in what was purchased at the store. It matches what was found at the scene,” Lt. Hermick said.
In an unusual chain of events, police charged Ramsey with Barto’s death before they found her body.
According to WTAE in Pittsburgh, a tipster alerted police that Ramsey was seen cleaning out the inside of his car and removing carpeting.
“His vehicle had the front seat taken out, the carpet was cut out, the floorboards reeked of bleach,” Lt. Hermick said.
“We felt we had enough to charge him based on his own admissions to somebody else,” said Butler County District Attorney Rich Goldlinger.
Police said Ramsey shot Barto because he thought she was cheating on him.
Barto’s family spoke to the media during an emotional press conference Tuesday afternoon.
For her family, the grief and pain are raw. Her brother said he will not forget her, putting his sunglasses on as he started to tear up.
“My sister was a beautiful girl. She was a beautiful soul, she was a great mother.”
Barto’s parents now have to tell their 6-year-old granddaughter — who they said is also a victim in this — why she will never see her mom again.
“It’s just unbearable that I have to bury my beautiful 26-year-old daughter, who was funny, who had a sense of humor, a beautiful smile,” Lisa Barto said.
The family said it was prepared for the worst after Barto was reported missing.
“We knew she was dead. We had no idea of the horrendous, the manner,” her father said.
There was suspicion about her boyfriend.
“Monster — only word I can think of right now, but honestly… everybody knows it’s worse than that,” Barto’s brother said.
Police hope there’s some closure for the family because this case has been hard on investigators, too.
“Everyone in my unit has children so they didn’t want to go home until they found this body,” Lt. Hermick said.
The family made a point to thank police for all they work they’ve done and are still doing in Barto’s case. Investigators say it isn’t over yet.