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OROVILLE — An Oroville man who led investigators to his father’s remote gravesite near Oroville told police he was relieved that what happened five years ago is now out in the open.

After three days of digging, detectives unearthed remains on Sunday they believe are those of Bruce E. Thompson, buried by his son, Kenneth C. Thompson, 52.

If the younger Thompson is telling the truth, his father — who was then 66 — was dying from cancer and refused treatment when he helped him dig a hole on their property at 47 Emily Road, some 15 miles northeast of Ellisforde, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.

He told detectives that his father told him he planned to commit suicide, and that he wanted him to use his Social Security funds to pay back what he owed him, the sheriff said.

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When the son came home from work one day, he found his father lying in the hole, dead, with a shotgun. He took the gun out of the hole and buried his father. Then he used his father’s debit card for about eight months until the card expired.

Rogers said Thompson hasn’t been charged with anything, and if, after an autopsy, his story pans out, he’ll face fraud charges and possibly a misdemeanor charge for illegally burying remains on his property.

He said so far, the sheriff’s office has been treating the case as a homicide, although the younger Thompson came to the site for the past three days, trying to help authorities locate his father’s body.

“It’s kind of a sad, weird thing,” Rogers said. “He told he yesterday it was like a huge weight lifted off his chest.”

The fraud, if charged, would come from the Social Security Administration, which initially contacted the sheriff’s office seeking help investigating Thompson. Funds were apparently withdrawn from the older Thompson’s account in 2009 and 2010, but there had been no activity since then, Rogers said. federal officials told him that about $11,000 may have been taken. Rogers said the younger Thompson said he stopped withdrawing funds after about eight months, when the debit card expired.

In the investigation, officials obtained search warrants for Bruce Thompson’s bank accounts, and to search the property on Emily Road. The sheriff’s office and Washington State Patrol Crime Lab began digging on Friday.

Remains were removed on Sunday afternoon.

Rogers said the shotgun was not found during the search, but was located Sunday at a family’s residence in Idaho. Thompson has not been arrested.

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