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The mystery of the severed human leg found in Wabasha County

The leg was found in the Mississippi River, 16 miles from where a boater disappeared without a trace in April.

The leg was found in the Mississippi River, 16 miles from where a boater disappeared without a trace in April. Aaron Carlson

On Saturday afternoon, a Wabasha County resident was clearing debris in the Upper Mississippi River channels around West Newton. There was a downed tree 20 feet from shore, which had turned into a makeshift dam catching rubbish drifting along.

The resident got closer and realized something. Not all of it was driftwood.

Nestled amid the debris was a complete human leg, foot to femur.

It looked relatively fresh. It still had “skin and stuff” on it, according to Wabasha Chief Deputy James Warren. In fact, it was still wearing a shoe. Warren wouldn’t say what kind -- better to not alarm any family members who may be looking for the leg’s owner.

No other remains were found.

There’s no way of knowing yet, but he believes the leg might belong to 61-year-old David Sheridan of Pepin, Wisconsin -- known around the area as “Captain Dave.” Sheridan, who owned a boat charter business in Pepin, was last seen right before he took his sailboat, Dragonfly, for a solo spin on the night of April 28.

Early the next day, Dick Koch stumbled upon Sheridan’s boat. It was washed ashore on the Minnesota side, about two miles away from where he’d launched it.

No one was aboard. All of Sheridan’s belongings were there, and Koch says the guardrail was damaged. At the time, authorities didn’t suspect foul play. He hasn’t been spotted since.

The leg was found about 16 miles from where Sheridan went missing. Until the medical examiner gets a DNA match, it’s impossible to say whether or not it’s his.