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Partial remains of two victims found in Rutherford County; suspect in custody, charged

By Kristy Kepley-Steward

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    RUTHERFORD COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Authorities say a Rutherford County man has been charged after the partial remains of two bodies were found Monday afternoon.

Sheriff Chris Francis tells News 13 on Monday, Dec. 27, officers responded to 482 Morningstar Lake Road in Forest City at 2:30 p.m. regarding a call about two possible deaths.

Sheriff Francis says when officers arrived, they found the remains and personal belongings of 44-year-old Jason Dean VanDyke, who lived with the suspect on the property. Officers also found the remains and personal belongings of 42-year-old Tracey Renae McKinney, of Ellenboro, on the property. McKinney was reported missing by her family on December 26, 2021.

Matthew Thomas Cooley, 34, has been charged with 1 count of homicide in the death of Jason Dean VanDyke. He is also charged with 2 counts of dismembering or destroying human remains and 2 counts of failing to notify law enforcement officers of the deaths.

He has not yet been charged with homicide in Tracey Renae McKinney’s death.

“They need to clean that up down there, find out what went on and clean it up, for good, even if it means the county taking over the land,” neighbor Chris Buchanan said. “I don’t got no problem with that, as long as somebody does something. It’s getting out of hand. It’s getting out of hand now that it’s hit this close.”

An autopsy on the victims is scheduled for Thursday.

Cooley is currently being held on no bond in the Rutherford County Detention Facility.

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