It's been 'pure hell,' says mom of man whose bones were found in Netcong

NETCONG -- The past 18 months have been hell for Heidi Strus and her family.  Dylan Bright, 22, of Bath, Pa.National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database  Her son, Dylan Bright, 22, of Bath, Pa., was last seen by family members on June...

It's been 'pure hell,' says mom of man whose bones were found in Netcong

NETCONG -- The past 18 months have been hell for Heidi Strus and her family. 

Dylan Bright, 22, of Bath, Pa.National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database 

Her son, Dylan Bright, 22, of Bath, Pa., was last seen by family members on June 24, 2015, but that was the last time anyone heard from him. 

"Pure hell," Strus said. "Just not knowing (what happened)."

Strus and Bright's five siblings tried contacting him but as holidays passed without word, they grew more worried. Strus herself constantly checked on her son's Facebook for any change. 

This past April, bones were found near Furnace Pond in Netcong, and, last month, investigators confirmed they were Bright's.

During the nearly year and a half in between, Strus held a fleeting hope her son would turn up alive.  

"I was suspecting something that happened to him, but I never gave up hope because without proof there's still a possibility he could show up," she said.

Morris County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Paul Merkler confirmed Tuesday the remains found near the pond were Bright's, but indicated the cause and manner of death remain pending. 

Strus, who lives in Palm Bay, Fla., said the prosecutor's office told her her son's death is currently considered an accident unless investigators find evidence suggesting another cause.

She also acknowledged her son had had troubles with the law and drugs in the past but Strus doesn't believe her son's death was the result of an overdose.

She's also skeptical of some of the investigation's findings. Bright's head, hands and part of his torso were not recovered, she said, pointing out that dental records and fingerprints are the standard means of identifying remains.

Strus also said her son was last seen running toward Furnace Pond on June 24 -- an area he was known to frequent with friends

Strus also said when she spoke to one investigator in early January asking for an update whether the bones belonged to her son she was told, "This isn't CSI. It doesn't happen in an hour." 

The next day, two officers with her local police department came to her door and told her New Jersey authorities had identified the bones as Bright's 

"I get it doesn't happen in an hour," she said. "I get that they're overwhelmed, but you know what, this is my son. I just want to know what happened."

Strus also said authorities had her son's DNA on file from a previous arrest, but it wasn't properly put into the system. Instead, she and her daughter ended up driving across Florida in December in order to provide New Jersey investigators with samples of their DNA for comparison.

Strus did, however, praise officers with the Netcong Police Department who took her to Furnace Pond on Monday to show her where her son's remains were found. 

"My interpretation is he decomposed and started flowing down across multiple locations (in Furnace Pond)," she said. "Nobody knows how he got in the water. Why aren't we trying to find out how he got in the water?"

Bright grew up in Newton and attended Newton High School but later moved to Bath, Pa., according to his obituary. 

A memorial service will be held for Bright on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. at the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, 63 High St., Newton. Memorial visitation will be held on Saturday, Feb., 11, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the funeral home.

Donations may be made to the Center for Prevention and Counseling, 61 Spring S., Newton, NJ 07860, for the Dylan Bright Memorial Fund. 

More information on the funeral arrangements is available at the funeral home's website. 

Justin Zaremba may be reached at jzaremba@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinZarembaNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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