Authorities are investigating human remains found beside Interstate 90 near Albert Lea as a suspicious death.

Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said that the bones appear to be from a man and, judging from their degraded clothing, have been lying next to the highway’s south side for several years.

On Monday, a man whose property abuts the highway was collecting litter near its fence when a round object caught his eye, Freitag said. “He looked even closer at it and saw it was a skull.”

The man called Freitag, who posted a guard at the site and alerted the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has been helping with the investigation. Early Tuesday morning, agents cut away the brush, dead branches and saplings to get to the bones, some of which had sunk a couple inches into the soil.

“I could see how all this time, no one saw it from the road,” Freitag said by phone Tuesday.

The investigators also found shoes, a ring, clothing-like material and a wide elastic waistband labeled “Hanes.” That waistband, plus the size of the femurs, have led investigators to believe the bones are from a man.

The remains have been taken to the Ramsey County medical examiners office to determine a cause of death. That office will perform an autopsy Wednesday. The skull had no holes that would indicate a gunshot. Freitag considers the death suspicious partly because of the bones’ proximity to a SuperAmerica, less than a mile away at I-90’s intersection with Hwy. 13.

Identifying the man could take “quite a while,” Freitag said. There are no active missing person cases in Freeborn County, he said. “I’m pretty certain this person’s not from around here.”

JENNA ROSS