Identity of human remains still a mystery

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Investigators vow to keep working on case

By Lisa King


One year after human remains were discovered in Waddy, investigators in the case say they are still searching for answers.

“We are still looking for leads,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Detective Mark Moore said.

After combing the area on a farm on Samples Lane where a dog brought a human skull home to its owner at the end of January 2017, officials broadened the search, which turned up more skeletal remains all belonging to the same person, they thought.

The additional remains were located on a different farm than the one the dog brought the skull to, and police said that owners of both properties have been very cooperative with investigators and that no charges were brought and foul play was not suspected.

Shelby County Sheriff Mike Armstrong said that deputies scoured several surrounding cemeteries to see if the remains could have come from an old grave, but found that was not the cases.

Moore said early in the investigation that they were going to try to match up the remains with any missing persons reports in Shelby or surrounding areas, but that attempt came up empty.

“We didn’t have anybody missing that matches any kind of time frame, or unsolved missing person’s cases in that time frame,” he said, referring to forensic opinions that speculated that the remains had been exposed to the elements for about a year.

“We’ve had medical examiners tell us it’s been more than a year, but they won’t say how long after,” he said.

In April the remains were turned over to the Forensic Anthropology Center in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee, a facility that examines human skeletal remains for law enforcement agencies to help recovery human remains, determine the identity of unidentified human remains, interpret trauma, and estimate time since death. To do this, the center studies the effects of different trauma and conditions on bodies that have been donated to center for study.

So far, said Moore, examiners there have not made any concrete determinations. He added that the Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s office has also been continuing with its investigation, which has also proven unfruitful.

“The medical examiner’s office in Louisville is still in the DNA process, but that’s been some time ago, and I’m just waiting patiently – I’d love to solve this thing,” he said. “But there’s nothing new.”

Despite that, he is still optimistic that something could turn up.

“We hope for results from that, but it could be weeks, even several more months, for that process,” he said. “It’s not like getting DNA from a swab. Getting DNA from remains like that is more involved.”

He added that investigators hope to eventually be able to identity the remains, or at least narrow down the possibilities.

That includes how long the bones were there, and the gender of the person, if not the identity, he said.

He said he would personally not give up until the identity is established.

“As long as I’m breathing, it’s not [a cold case],” he said. “We just needs some leads to follow – we just don’t have any. We’ve gone through the program, which is a National Identification Process for Missing Persons, and we came up with nothing. As long as I’m drawing breath, it won’t be cold. I hate to have that hanging out there.”

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 633-4324.