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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Human remains discovered in North Idaho near where Montana woman went missing last year

A hunter discovered human remains on Sunday in a remote area of North Idaho, in the same area where a Montana woman reportedly went missing in September 2017.

According to Bonner County Sheriff’s detective Kurt Lehman, the hunter found the remains near U.S. Forest Service Road No. 278, a mountain access road that traces the southeastern shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille. The discovery was made in the area of Lakeview, located at the southeast tip of the lake and directly east of Bayview and Farragut State Park.

That area was the focus of a search last year for Mirissa Serrano, of Lolo, Montana, who was 27 when she was declared missing on Sept. 14, 2017.

“It is an active suspicious death investigation,” Lehman said. The remains were found in the “broad vicinity of last year’s search area.”

Reached on Thursday, her father, Joseph Serrano, confirmed that he had been communicating with Bonner County detectives. They forwarded the remains to the Bonner County Coroner’s Office, which has yet to identify them.

Mirissa Serrano was last seen in the company of 62-year-old Daniel H. Neep, who told The Spokesman-Review in a jailhouse interview last year that he met the young woman at a bar in Lolo on Sept. 9, 2017, and she asked to accompany him on the trip back to Spokane, where Neep rented an apartment.

After she left, Serrano texted photos to her father of the room she would be renting in Spokane and asked him to mail her personal items. Joseph Serrano said at the time that he also spoke to Neep and informed him that his daughter had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The Serranos corresponded until Sept. 14, when Mirissa stopped replying to his texts.

Neep told The Spokesman-Review in 2017 that after being dropped off at the apartment on Sept. 10, he asked her if she wanted to go with him to a cabin in Lakeview, where he did maintenance. She agreed, he said.

However, at some point in the Idaho woods, he said, she changed her mind and began talking about returning to Montana. He said she left him while he was asleep in a truck.

Neep filed a missing persons report on Sept. 16 and was promptly arrested for an outstanding warrant from Kootenai County. The warrant was for a probation violation stemming from a previous DUI.

“I knew if I called (the authorities) I was going to jail, but I had to do it,” Neep said in the previous interview. “I was worried about her. I still am.”

While incarcerated, Neep denied having any involvement in Serrano’s disappearance.

“I wouldn’t harm a hair on her head,” Neep said last year. “She is a nice, smart girl. When I get out (of jail), I am going to help find her. I have been sending leads to detectives.”

Those same detectives spent days canvassing the area of a remote cabin where Neep sometimes stayed when he worked maintenance jobs on that and other cabins.

But that search came up empty.

Following his probation violation arrest, Bonner County detectives later charged Neep, who has a previous robbery conviction, with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to court records, he was convicted and sent to the Idaho State Correction Center near Boise. Neep will not be eligible for parole until Feb. 12, 2020.