Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Area of Focus

Social Sciences

Abstract

This poster will explore a skeletal cold case presented to University of Montana Forensic Anthropology Laboratory (UMFAL). Forensic anthropology consists of the study and analysis of skeletal remains in a legal context in an attempt to aid in the identification of human remains. This poster will explain the circumstances of the cold case, the analysis and methods conducted, as well as non-identifying results. On the 10th of February, 2017, the UMFAL received the remains of a cold case that had been stored in the Montana Forensic State Crime Lab. Our goal was to conduct a re-analysis of a previously documented case, including the establishment of a biological profile and an assessment of trauma. A biological profile consists of estimating the age, sex, and ancestry of the individual. Forensic anthropologists are able to do this by using methods that analyze elements of the skeleton based on their shape and evidence of degradation due to aging. For example, the most accurate way to estimate age is to analyze the pubic symphysis and auricular surface of a pelvis. The biological profile assessment of this case determined the remains to be of a young adult male, most likely in his late twenties, of Caucasian descent. It is also important to conduct an assessment of trauma present in the remains to determine what trauma occurred ante (before), peri (during), or post (after) mortem (death). This is a vital step in forensic anthropological analyses because investigators need to know which, if any, injuries might indicate violence, or if there are any healed injuries which might offer information about the individual’s past. Postmortem injuries, if not interpreted correctly, can also be incorrectly interpreted as violent perimortem injuries. In this case, there was extensive perimortem cranial trauma which presented as an unusual pattern of projectile trauma. Our biological profile, trauma assessment, and overall assessment of the remains led us to believe that this individual may have been previously identified. Following consultations with the crime lab it was determined that this individual had indeed been previously identified and that the elements presented to the lab had been retained for evidentiary purposes. This is an excellent example of why it is important to revisit and re-analyze cold cases. Due to our analysis and suspicions, these remains have now been re-associated with their identity and will likely be returned to the family. Our ability to re-analyze and identify this case exemplifies how important our skills as forensic anthropologists can be in active and cold cases.

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Apr 27th, 11:00 AM Apr 27th, 12:00 PM

Finding Identity in a Skeletal Cold Case

UC Ballroom (Center)

This poster will explore a skeletal cold case presented to University of Montana Forensic Anthropology Laboratory (UMFAL). Forensic anthropology consists of the study and analysis of skeletal remains in a legal context in an attempt to aid in the identification of human remains. This poster will explain the circumstances of the cold case, the analysis and methods conducted, as well as non-identifying results. On the 10th of February, 2017, the UMFAL received the remains of a cold case that had been stored in the Montana Forensic State Crime Lab. Our goal was to conduct a re-analysis of a previously documented case, including the establishment of a biological profile and an assessment of trauma. A biological profile consists of estimating the age, sex, and ancestry of the individual. Forensic anthropologists are able to do this by using methods that analyze elements of the skeleton based on their shape and evidence of degradation due to aging. For example, the most accurate way to estimate age is to analyze the pubic symphysis and auricular surface of a pelvis. The biological profile assessment of this case determined the remains to be of a young adult male, most likely in his late twenties, of Caucasian descent. It is also important to conduct an assessment of trauma present in the remains to determine what trauma occurred ante (before), peri (during), or post (after) mortem (death). This is a vital step in forensic anthropological analyses because investigators need to know which, if any, injuries might indicate violence, or if there are any healed injuries which might offer information about the individual’s past. Postmortem injuries, if not interpreted correctly, can also be incorrectly interpreted as violent perimortem injuries. In this case, there was extensive perimortem cranial trauma which presented as an unusual pattern of projectile trauma. Our biological profile, trauma assessment, and overall assessment of the remains led us to believe that this individual may have been previously identified. Following consultations with the crime lab it was determined that this individual had indeed been previously identified and that the elements presented to the lab had been retained for evidentiary purposes. This is an excellent example of why it is important to revisit and re-analyze cold cases. Due to our analysis and suspicions, these remains have now been re-associated with their identity and will likely be returned to the family. Our ability to re-analyze and identify this case exemplifies how important our skills as forensic anthropologists can be in active and cold cases.