Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Authorities seek help in identifying local remains

Local families who have lost loved ones may have the chance for closure, thanks to FBI facial approximations of five missing people in the Central Virginia area.

Remains of a woman of unknown race were found in Petersburg on Aug. 12, 2012, and remains of an African-American woman were found in Dinwiddie County in Nov. 16, 2007.

Chief Medical Examiner William Gormley unveiled models Tuesday with the hope that the public would recognize the individuals.

"Providing closure for those families is a public service," he said. "Identifying dead persons provides proper memorialization."

The remains of the woman found in Petersburg were found near the intersection of 3rd and River streets. Police spokeswoman Esther Hyatt said that only a skull was recovered.

The remains of the woman found in Dinwiddie County, age 20 to 35, were found at 6417 Tranquility Lane in Sutherland.

The National Missing and Unidentified Person's System database states that "skeletonized" remains in a related case were also found near the body in the same yard. Those remains belong to a man of unknown race, 24 to 50 years old. Items found with the remains include two women's black shoes and a white metal Timex watch with a purple strap.

NAMUS is a website that details the cases of the five individuals and others across the country.

Maj. W.B. Knott of the Dinwiddie County Sheriff's Office told The Progress-Index in 2009 that investigators found the remains of the man in a wooded area off U.S. Route 460 in 2007. He said a resident noticed the remains after his dog brought a skull into his yard.

Knott said that the cause of death could not be determined because the remains were badly damaged by animals.

The nearly complete skeleton of a 17- to 25-year-old Hispanic male was found in Caroline County in 1988. The remains were located on Interstate 95 near the 112 mile marker.

His skeleton was found next to that of an older Hispanic male. Samples taken from both skeletons point to the possibility of a father-child relationship. Both men were victims of a homicide. Virginia State Police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner did not reveal the cause or manner of their deaths.

The remains of two other bodies were found in Richmond. One is the nearly complete skeleton of a 45- to 60-year-old man of unknown race. The skeleton was found in 2011 near at the intersection of 5th and Cypress avenues. In 2002, the mummified remains of an African-American man were found near 1200 Maury St.. The estimated age at death was 50 to 70 years old. The body was mummified due to environmental conditions.

Individuals with information about the cases should call the Virginia State Police Department at or the 533-3408 or the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at 786-3174.

Families of missing people are also encouraged to ask local law enforcement to take a DNA sample via mouth swab. The sample can be potentially matched with the bone remains of a missing person. Families may also enter their information into NAMUS to be matched with an unidentified person.

Rochelle Altholz, state administrator for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said that there have been four successful identifications from facial approximations.

"We take the picture of when the person was alive that the family gave and the facial approximation and it's been very accurate so far," she said.

She said that when a families are finally able to claim their loved one's remains, the experience can be very rewarding.

"They worried for years and years that they were going to die and not know what happened to their loved one," she said. "So to rejoin a family and their loved one and they know what happened to that person is really important."

Wednesday 11 September 2013


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