The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 21, 2014

Investigators pin hopes on homicide victim's skull reconstruction

EDMOND — Investigators hope potential forensic reconstruction of facial features by OSBI forensic artists will lead to identification of a Logan County homicide victim.

Logan County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Richard Stephens said the homicide investigation from Jan. 31 at Hiwassee Road and County Road 75 has stalled, but work continues on trying to solve the case nonetheless.

At the scene, amidst a reported grass fire, first responders found the bound and burned remains of an adult male. Stephens said forensic reconstruction of facial features would allow investigators to photograph the reconstruction as though it were a person’s face.

“This is very useful in the identification of an unknown subject,” Stephens said. “This process is lengthy and the condition of the skull is critical to the success of this process.”

The skull provides clues to personal appearance — the brow ridge, the distance between the eye orbits, the shape of the nasal chamber, the shape and projection of the nasal bones, the chin’s form and the overall profile of the facial bones all determine facial features in life, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of National History.

In facial reconstruction, a sculptor familiar with facial anatomy works with a forensic anthropologist to interpret skeletal features that reveal the subject’s age, sex and ancestry and anatomical features like facial asymmetry, evidence of injuries (like a broken nose) or loss of teeth before death.

Applying strips of clay, a forensic artist begins to rebuild the face. The finished product only approximates actual appearance because the cranium does not reflect soft-tissue details — eye, hair and skin color, facial hair, the shape of the lips or how much fat tissue covers the bone.

Yet a facial reconstruction can put a name on an unidentified body in a modern forensic case.

Stephens said the victim is an adult male, most likely in his 20s about 5-feet, 8-inches tall who appears to have been Hispanic or Native American. There are very distinctive tattoos on the right shoulder of a bull’s skull with a serpent intertwined through it. There is another tattoo on the upper right chest of the Cherokee Nation seal.  

In addition to the facial reconstruction work, the victim’s dental X-rays and DNA are available to compare with any potential victim’s records, Stephens said.

Stephens said the DNA is being submitted into the Combined DNA Index System, a nationwide database of DNA profiles. Included are the profiles of convicted offenders, profiles developed from evidence in unsolved cases and miscellaneous profiles such as missing persons and unidentified human remains.

“These things are valuable tools, but require a known victim to compare against,” Stephens said.

CODIS was designed to compare a target DNA record against the DNA records contained in the database, according to the FBI. If a match is identified by the CODIS software, labs involved exchange information to verify it and establish coordination.

A match of the forensic DNA record in the database may be used to establish probable cause to obtain an evidentiary DNA sample from a suspect. Law enforcement can use this documentation to obtain a court order authorizing the collection of a known biological reference sample from an offender. The casework lab can then perform a DNA analysis on the known biological sample so it can be presented as evidence in court.

Additionally, investigators are examining every missing persons case from across the nation with a similar description, Stephens said. This has been an arduous process, and thus far has not presented any leads, he said.

If you have any information about this case, call the Logan County Sheriff’s Office at 260-3204. A communications specialist will take information and get any callers in touch with investigators day or night.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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