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COBB COUNTY, Ga. – While the family of once-missing veteran, Chase Massner, makes plans to lay him to rest next week, the medical examiner has determined his cause of death.
The Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office, located in Marietta, Ga., concluded that the U.S. Army veteran’s cause of death is “undetermined.”
She also wrote his obituary for his upcoming, long-awaited funeral slated for next Monday.
"Chase will be remembered for his silly antics that always made his loved ones laugh as well as his caring and generous demeanor. He never met a stranger and was always willing to help someone in need! He was known to light up a room with his smile. Chase was a free spirit and brought Joy to everyone he crossed paths with. He was courageous and will never be forgotten."
According to his obituary, Massner, who disappeared more than three years ago and found earlier this year, is survived by his wife and two daughters, as well as his mother, who still lives in Cobb County.
Massner was born in Florida, and moved with his family to Georgia when he was 3 months old. He grew up in Woodstock, Ga., and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2006.
As an Iraq war veteran, he served in the U.S. Army from 2008-2015, earning the Iraqi Service ribbon, Global War on Terrorism, and was honorably discharged in December 2015.
“Chase will be remembered for his silly antics that always made his loved ones laugh, as well as his caring and generous demeanor. He never met a stranger and would give the shirt off of his back to someone in need,” his mom wrote in his obituary.
He is last seen at his friend, James Bradshaw "Brad" Clement’s house on Farmbrook Lane in Kennesaw, Ga.
The young father is reported missing by his wife, Amanda Massner, and mother, Stephanie Cadena.
Amanda tells 11Alive that her husband has struggled returning to civilian life after serving a year in Iraq and returned in 2011. She says that her husband had been through some tough times since returning from his tour in the Middle East.
"Since he got back, he's had ups and downs with struggling with his mental stability," Amanda tells 11Alive in a 2014 interview.
Amanda says Chase had reached a low point late the week that he went missing, she said, and went away to visit Clement, "to get some space."
"We've all been out for hours and hours with flashlights, just walking basically trying to see if we see him," Amanda says.
Chase is last seen wearing a red sweatshirt and khaki pants. He is 6'2" and weighs around 175 pounds. He has tattoos on his arm of a treasure chest, an angel and the name “Massner.” He has a chest tattoo of two roses on the right pectoral muscle.
"No matter what it is that he is going through right now, his family loves him, no matter what; and we are here for him, and we just want peace of mind that he is OK; and that he is safe. We want to help him, and we went to be with him, and we want to get through this together," Amanda says.
Nearly 200 volunteers search for the missing father of two, who vanished without a trace. Family and friends gather at Shiloh Baptist Church, not far from where Chase was last seen.
Search groups in the hunt for missing soldier Chase say an "area of high interest" was found.
Missing in America, a group from New Jersey, and Guardian Angels have joined the effort. The groups organize a search that begins over the weekend and runs through June 16, 2015.
A spokesperson for Missing in America says searchers found garments and a tent near a cliff. These are processed to see if they are in any way related to Chase.
"What you are looking for if you're looking for a deceased person, what you're looking for if you're looking for a live person, you really have to get out there, hit the ground running, and you have to put your hard, sweat work into it," Missing in America founder, Nancy Schaffer says. "And that's what we do."
"Everybody needs to understand that Chase, he's a son, a husband, a father," family friend Christine Lemoine tells 11Alive in 2015. "And he's a friend to a lot of people, especially being a veteran, and his extended family has missed him greatly, and we all just really want to be able to bring him home, so that there's closure there for his family."
Schafer says the New Jersey group has seen success finding people who have been missing – sometimes for decades. They researched Chase’s case for weeks before retracing his last known steps, plus several other undisclosed locations, using hundreds of searchers, dog teams and experts on horseback.
"One of the main things that brought us into the Chase Massner case is the dedication that everyone has put forth to find him," says Sheilangley Lugo of Missing in America. "A lot of people have come together to search for him."
Chase receives an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army.
Chase’s mom talks face-to-face for first time to Clement on CrimeOnline host, Nancy Grace’s podcast.
Nancy: And we now introduce Stephanie Cadena to Brad Clement in her search for her son Chase Massner.
Nancy: Stephanie, what you have been waiting for … Brad, the last person that as of right now, we know last saw Chase alive.
Cadena: What was the last thing Chase said to you? When was the last time you talked to him?
Clement: The last time I talked to him, I mean we were just talking about him and Amanda pretty much.
As the interview continues with Clement, he agrees to take a lie detector test and talks about more his friend.
“He was a really happy guy,” Clement tells Grace. “Like I never saw this, you know, bipolar, crazy, mean… you know, that Amanda would kind of paint to me about it from the couple of times I talked to her.”
Clement: "She asked if he was really suicidal and its like why is she asking me this when she knew him better than I did."
Amanda, Clement says in the interview, didn't seem frantic that Chase was missing--rather, he says, it seemed like she was more concerned that she might get in trouble for something.
Human remains are found at the home where Chase was last seen at.
Cobb County Police recover human remains at Clement’s former Kennessaw, Ga., home, located at 500 block of Farmbrook Trail, after the new homeowners noticed something suspicious in their backyard.
Detectives remove the remains.
Police say that they believe the remains are Chase’s—however, a positive identification has not yet been made by the medical examiner.
Chase’s mother delivers dental records to the Cobb Medical Examiner's office to assist in identifying the remains found.
The remains’ identity nor cause of death are released. Police decline to say if a criminal investigation had started.
"We had been told that there had been numerous searches there. Everything had been searched," says Tammy Childs, a friend of the missing man. "I believe that it shouldn’t have taken three years for this to be done."
Furthermore, Childs says, she's convinced the remains are her friend’s.
Clement agrees to surrender to police after he is charged with concealing a death.
Cobb County Sheriff's Office releases a "BOLO," or "Be on the lookout" for Clement, while Chase’s family urges him to turn himself into police.
Family friend, Christine Lemoine, of Marietta, Ga., said that was when his family thought they could start moving towards justice. But that was short-lived.
Lemoine, a spokeswoman for the family, said the new developments—finding remains, charging Clement—were a step in the right direction, and now, they have taken two steps back with Clement on the lam.
“It’s almost back to square one, if you think about it. Now, they have nothing,” she says. “From day one the understanding that everyone had, is that the last person to see Chase alive is Brad Clement.”
Chase’s mother takes to social media, pleading with Clement, urging to do the right thing.
“Yes it’s 3 a.m. and NO I’m not asleep! Brad Clement, for God’s sake, STOP! You spoke to me face to face and even hugged me! If you’re not guilty face us and show us the truth! You love your Mother and Chase Massner loved me! But Chase is no longer here to speak, you are! Please step up and do the right thing!!!
"This woman's not sleeping. She's lost her only son and she wants answers," Lemoine says. “If he is watching the news at any time, he needs to turn himself in.”
She shares a message of her own on behalf of the Massners to Clement.
“He keeps saying he isn't guilty, that he's been framed. But if you haven't done anything wrong, then show your face. Come forward.”
Clement’s car is spotted at his mother’s DeKalb County home.
Clement arrested at a shopping center parking lot.
He was arrested at a shopping center on N. Druid Hills Road by the Cobb County Police Department's fugitive squad and U.S. Marshals Thursday.
DeKalb County Police were on standby.
Clement makes first court appearance.
The medical examiner's office is still working to confirm if the remains found are Chase’s. But, on Friday, they did give 11Alive the following statement:
"We are currently working with the Department of Defense to acquire any records that will assist with confirming his identification."
After nearly a month, the remains found in Kennesaw, Ga., have been positively identified as Iraq War veteran, Chase Massner’s.
His mom, Stephanie Cadena, told 11Alive the last three years have been an uphill battle in an effort to bring her son to peace.
“It's been an agonizing three-plus years to fight for Chase, he was recovered on Aug. 1--24 days ago and positively identified today! Now, we can begin to plan a proper funeral for Chase our son, husband and father! The next step is to prosecute the man being charged in this case!”
The Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office completed positive identification of the human remains through dental record comparison and confirmed those findings.
“It has been determined that the remains are those of 26-year-old Chase Tyler Massner,” Cobb County Police Sgt. Dana Pierce said in a statement.
The final identification came three weeks after Cobb County Police found them at his friend, Brad Clement’s former Kennesaw, Ga., home.
Cadena was agitated that it was taking too long. She sent a statement to 11Alive:
“Words cannot express my frustration that it's taken the United States Army three weeks to send my sons dental records and once they were received by the Cobb County Medical Examiner this morning I was told that it would take about an hour to compare the records, I patiently waited until shortly before 5 p.m., before calling again only to find out it could take another 24-48 hours to make a positive identification!”
Clement was scheduled to appear before a Cobb County Magistrate judge for his probable cause and bond hearing on Sept. 20, however, the prosecutor in the case did not show up and the judge rescheduled the hearing for Oct. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
The autopsy report was released, indicating the presence of heroin, but no trauma.
The Cobb County Medical Examiner’s office released Massner’s autopsy Monday, Sept. 27 afternoon and revealed both the toxicology report for his muscle tissue, as well as his skeletal conditions as found.
Incorporating those factors, however, the forensic investigator on his case, Tempie Hunton, could not determine with absolute certainty the cause or manner of death, documenting her conclusion for both as “undetermined.”
Massner went missing in March 2014, from his friend, Brad Clement’s house in Kennesaw, Ga. The Cobb County Police Department recovered his remains from that Farmbrook Trail location on Aug. 1, 2017.
He was found underneath the deck of the residence, beneath poured concrete.
He was found enveloped in a black tarp, and secured with several layers of duct tape. He had strips of clear packaging tape wrapped around his chest and legs.
He was dressed in a red hoodie with the “QT” logo, over a striped Old Navy shirt, with a Nike Pro Combat shirt, khaki pants, two mismatched socks with peace signs, and a spandex and nylon tattoo sleeve.
Hunton reported in the autopsy that Massner had the following substances found in his muscle tissue:
“Mr. Massner had a known history of heroin abuse,” the autopsy report stated.
However, the presence of morphine and methamphetamine in the muscle tissue does not indicate, Hunton said in the report, a definitive association with the drug as the presence of these drugs in muscle does not prove that they were present in the blood at the time of death.”
The amount of drugs taken cannot be determined, nor can the timeframe of when it was ingested. Therefore, determining if it was a lethal dose is impossible.
“Whether an overdose of drugs was a factor in the death of Chase Massner cannot be determined.”
His widow, Amanda Massner told 11Alive in a 2014 interview, that her husband had struggled returning to civilian life after serving a year in Iraq and returned in 2011. She said that her husband had been through some tough times since returning from his tour in the Middle East.
"Since he got back, he's had ups and downs with struggling with his mental stability," Amanda said.
Amanda said Chase had reached a low point late the week that he went missing and went away to visit Clement, "to get some space."
The report also showed that one of Massner’s nasal bones was found fractured and categorized as a post-mortem wound, or occurring after he died. Furthermore, there was no premortem trauma found, nor lethal trauma to the assessable soft tissues or skeletal remains—concluding that there was no trauma done to him before he died.
“Due to the state of decomposition of the remains, a definitive cause of death cannot be determined.”
However, that determination isn’t the absolute last word on his death.
“Should additional information become available, the conclusions pertaining to the cause and manner of death may be changed,” Hunton stated in the report.
It’s unclear what the new developments in his case might mean for Clement, who was arrested and charged with concealing his death and is currently behind bars awaiting his probable cause and bond hearing on Oct. 5.
“We are aware of the CCME findings. We are waiting for a full and complete file from all involved agencies for a comprehensive review. We cannot comment on the evidence at this time,” Cobb County District Attorney investigator, Kim Isaza, said.
Funeral services for Chase will be held at the Darby Funeral Home in Canton, Ga., on Monday, Oct. 2, just three days before Clement is due in court for his probably cause hearing.
Visitation is at 9 a.m., followed by the funeral ceremony at 10 a.m. The cemetery service at National Memorial Cemetery, also in Canton, Ga., will commence at noon.
Ross Warnes, on behalf of Chase’s wife Amanda, has set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses. To date, they have raised $6,400.