Hunters discovered a body in the woods, and authorities said it might be the remains of a 78-year-old woman who they believe was kidnapped from her home three weeks ago.
A final identification won't be made until after an autopsy is completed, but the remains are believed to be that of a female with the same build as Pat O'Hagan, police said Monday.
The bird hunters found the body in Wheelock, about 10 miles from O'Hagan's home in Sheffield, police said. The person had been the victim of foul play, authorities said.
O'Hagan was reported missing on Sept. 11, after a friend arrived to pick her up for a meeting and she wasn't there. O'Hagan, a widow who camped, kayaked and lived alone, was an active member of the community and mentally alert.
Police haven't said what led them to believe she was abducted or mentioned a possible motive. But authorities have said there was no reason to believe that O'Hagan, a grandmother of nine who by all accounts is mentally alert and physically active, just wandered off.
Since her disappearance, searchers have combed corn fields, barns, abandoned buildings and a quarry in the dairy farming community, which has held a vigil and prayer service for her safe return.
O'Hagan and her husband moved to northern Vermont from Chelmsford, Mass., about 15 years ago and renovated a deteriorating white clapboard house before he died in 2001.
Money appeared to be an unlikely motive for an abduction. Her family has described her as prudent and frugal.
"We're still looking for any information, any information that people might have that they think would be relevant to this investigation," state police Major Ed Ledo said during a news conference in St. Johnsbury. "We want them to come forward."
Police were at O'Hagan's home Monday afternoon. Troopers said the family did not wish to make a statement.
The body was found off an unpaved road used by snowmobilers and off-road enthusiasts.
Despite the uncertainty about the identification, nearby residents said they were grateful O'Hagan's disappearance might have been solved.
"I'm glad they did find something. It gives you a little closure," said Clinton Hudson, 60, of Wheelock. "I just know how I'd feel if my mother was missing."