Someone walking in the area located the remains down an embankment behind Kohl's department store Monday evening.
Due to the cold weather, police secured the area Monday night until early Tuesday morning when crime scene investigators arrived, said Capt. Jeff Wilson with the St. Joseph Police Department.
"It was getting dark," Wilson said. "It was severely cold last night."
A team of investigators spent the day collecting items from the site of the discovery.
An officer on the scene said the remains were under a blue tarp that appeared to be a makeshift shelter. He told KQ2 the remains were not fully in tact.
Near the remains, a coat, empty bottles and other trash suggested the person might have been living there. Police said it is too early to tell if the remains are those of a homeless person.
"It's a step by step process so those answers haven't been given to us at this time," Wilson said.
Shoppers in the area were surprised to hear of the discovery so close to them.
"It just sends chills down my spine thinking it's so close," shopper Betty Mosser said.
"It's pretty quiet up in this area," Kohl's shopper Anne Blohm said. "People go to work and come home and mind their own business pretty well."
Police said it will take time to determine the gender and identification of the remains. An officer on the scene said they have probably been there for several months.