The process of identifying remains
It's been about a week since skeletal remains were discovered near ShoppingTown Mall in DeWitt. Police are not commenting on the case, or who the remains may belong to, but there are indications this could be tied to a missing person's case from 2005. As YNN's Erin Clarke tells us, making a positive identification in a case like this can take days and sometimes even years.
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DEWITT, N.Y. -- "Within several days an identification can be made if the investigators believe they think they know who it might be," said Utica College Anthropology professor, Thomas Crist.
That might be the case with an investigation following the discovery of skeletal remains in DeWitt. However, anthropologists say before an ID can be made much work has to be done.
"We're going to try to match what the skeleton tells us to what is being reported in the missing persons report," said Crist.
The skeleton can say a lot. The hip bones for instance, tell experts the sex of an individual because women's' bodies are adapted for birth. The skull can help experts determine facial features and of course, there are the teeth, compared against known dental records.
"Sometimes that involves x-rays and sometimes it involves simple looking at the bones grossly or just in front of us without doing anything microscopically or with any kind of imaging," said Crist.
Bones are also looked at to determine cause of death. Each bone and its surface are carefully checked for cut marks, wounds and signs of blunt force trauma.
"If someone is hit by a bat or a big rock or something like that, it will fracture the bone in a very specific way," said Crist.
These things are charted to determine what happened around the time of death and to rule out death by natural cause. Crist says then it all comes back to comparing the information with missing persons reports. That is where the challenge lies.
"That skeleton could have come from anywhere. It could be transported hundreds or thousands of miles very quickly and what we need to do is work closely in a team, no one does this alone, with the investigators to really scour the databases of missing persons reports," said Crist.
A process done painstakingly because experts know the tale these bones tell affects families somewhere looking for closure.
DeWitt Police have scheduled a Friday morning news conference regarding their week long search.