AMY SWEENEY/Staff photo Linda Morrissette of Lowell holds a photo of her sister Helena Fells of Dracut who disappeared Nov. 28, 2006. She has recruited Rocky Morrison and his Clean River Project to search the river for any traces of her sister who was last seen near the Merrimack River.

Staff Photographer

Police plan DNA testing of bone found inside footwear

HAVERHILL — A woman's shoe containing a bone that was found on the banks of the Merrimack River may provide a clue about the fate of Helena Fells of Dracut, who has been missing since 2006.

Her sister, Linda Morrissette of Lowell, said she has been waiting months to see the shoe or even a photograph of it, but was told she could not because it had been sent to the medical examiner's office.

Officials said they now plan to grant Morrissette's request. The shoe and bone were found in West Newbury earlier this year.

"We will make arrangements for her to look at a photograph of the shoe," said Stephen O'Connell, a spokesman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Morrissette said it means one less thing to worry and wonder about.

"At least I'll be able to look at it and say it's not my sister's shoe and I can continue to focus on searching for her," Morrissette said. "Maybe it's not her shoe, but who knows whose bone that is until testing is done."

The discovery of the shoe is prompting a search of the river from east Haverhill into West Newbury.

On Nov. 28, 2006, Fells' abandoned car was found near an auto parts store in Lowell, close to the Merrimack River.

Morrissette believes her sister may have committed suicide by jumping into the river. Several past searches failed to turn up any trace of Fells, and now another search is planned by Rocky Morrison and his Clean River Project team. Clean River plans to do the search Oct. 12 and 13, focusing on a section of the river between Groveland and West Newbury.

Morrissette said she plans to take part in the search the first day and that a family member plans to take part the second day.

"I'd do it both days, but because I started a new job, I can't," Morrissette said, adding that she's been involved in every previous search.

Morrissette said the state has samples of her DNA and that of family members that can be used to compare with any human remains that are found.

"My whole family has been wondering about this shoe," Morrissette said. "My brother and sister-in-law, Helena's husband, my daughter, my son-in-law... all of us."

O'Connell said the shoe found in West Newbury in April is in poor condition and is deteriorated and that the bone that was in it is believed to be a human bone.

"The only conclusive evidence will come from DNA," O'Connell said, noting that it is not uncommon for DNA testing to take months to complete. He said there is still an open investigation by state police assigned to the district attorney's office in regards to the discovery of the shoe.

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