How law enforcement works to identify bodies, human remains

How law enforcement works to identify bodies, human remains

Tyler - The Smith County Sheriff's Office is working to identify human remains found along Interstate 20 last fall.

The latest tests show the body is a black male in his 40s or 50s, and further testing has been ordered.

In July, bodies were found in a wooded area in Longview, at a home in Grand Saline, and near Loop 323 in Tyler. It is the job of investigators to uncover their identity.

"Depending on what condition the body was in, it can make the identification process difficult and it can also cause a little bit lengthy investigation into what the cause of death was," Tyler Police Department detective Gregg Roberts said.  

Roberts says if a body has not decomposed, the first step is taking fingerprints and checking the missing persons file.

"Say if a person has their prints in there, maybe they were arrested, maybe if they had some kind of license that required them to be finger printed we can get a hit that way," Roberts said.

But it's not always that easy. Last fall, human remains found along I-20 had to be sent to the University of North Texas Forensics Anthropology Department.

"They would extract DNA or attempt to extract DNA from that skeletal matter and enter that into a DNA index where people that are known DNA profiles would be in there," Roberts said.  

Databases like Namus.gov allow families of missing people to upload their DNA in the hopes of finding a match, a process proven to be effective.

"I know a couple of years ago where skeletal remains were found, and then we were able to make an identification and figure out who he was," Roberts said.

In Kilgore three years ago, the ashes of a U.S. veteran found in a shopping cart were laid to rest. He was identified using technology and persistence.

"We want to give the family peace of mind and have them find out what happened to their loved ones," Roberts said.

Detective Roberts urges those who may have a missing loved one to send DNA samples to the Namus.gov website. The database is used nationwide and could lead to a discovery.

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