UPTON — Nearly two years ago, James J. Robertson was driven away from his family's Avon home by two men dressed as constables, who said he needed to take a surprise drug test for his probation.
Robertson, who was 37, never returned, and was presumed dead. The man accused of orchestrating his bizarre kidnapping told authorities his body would never be found.
But on Wednesday, authorities announced that human remains found last week in woods in Upton had been identified as Robertson, an unlikely discovery that brought a measure of closure to his loved ones.
"It's somewhat of a relief to the family," Michael Morrissey, the Norfolk district attorney, said during a news conference at the Upton Police Department. "They had always feared the worst."
Three men have been charged in connection to Robertson's kidnapping, authorities said. Authorities said it was too early to say whether they will face murder charges.
"We have to follow the evidence," Morrissey said.
James M. Feeney, an alleged drug dealer from Dedham, is accused of having hatched the kidnapping plot as revenge for Robertson's romantic involvement with his former girlfriend. He also suspected that Robertson had informed against him, according to court records.
At Feeney's direction, two other men, Alfred A. Ricci III of Canton and Scott W. Morrison of Norfolk, allegedly dressed as constables to lure Robertson into their car and abduct him. Both Ricci and Morrison owed Feeney money, according to court records.
"Feeney told them that if they went to get Robertson he would wipe their debt clean and give them some pills," investigators wrote in court records.
On New Year's Day in 2014, Ricci and Morrison allegedly drove to Robertson's home and told him he needed to come with them to take a urine test. Robertson had submitted to random drug screening as a condition of probation, and was apparently not surprised by the request.
Robertson's mother and a family friend saw the Toyota Camry drive away.
"That was the last the family ever saw of Mr. Robertson," Morrissey said.
The two men drove to Ricci's house in Canton, where Feeney was waiting, according to police.
They put Robertson, who was handcuffed, in the front passenger seat next to Feeney, who drove away. Ricci told police they never spoke about the incident after that day.
Ricci was charged with kidnapping after speaking with investigators in May 2014. Morrison surrendered to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
At a court hearing in August 2014, prosecutors said Feeney was obsessed with Robertson.
The cases against the three men are open. They have pleaded not guilty, and are due back in court Jan. 11.
Ricci's lawyer said his client maintains his innocence, and Morrison's lawyer said he has pleaded not guilty.
A fourth man, a Dedham police officer, was charged with providing Feeney with the badge, holster, and handcuffs.
A hunter discovered the remains Dec. 26, and the medical examiner's office identified them through dental records. In November, authorities asked hunters in the Blue Hills Reservation for their help in finding Robertson.
Robertson's family was quickly notified when his body was identified, and met the news with both sadness and relief, Morrissey said.
"The reality has set in," he said.