Nearly two years after skeletal remains were discovered near Stockton, more bone pieces have been found that likely belong to the same body.
Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park said a portion of a skull and what appears to be a scapula were found Wednesday about 200 yards away from where part of a human skeleton was found in May 2011 north of Stockton.
The new bones appear human, but testing will be required to confirm their origin and if they belong to the as-yet unidentified body, said Park.
“Those things are at the state medical examiner’s office. They’ve got the [original] bones so they’ll determine if it belongs to the same individual,” he said.
Most of a human body was discovered in 2011 by Tooele County Attorney Doug Hogan and his neighbor, Wayco Cowan, as they were checking spring runoff on land owned by Hogan’s family. Cowan saw what looked like a human foot in what Hogan thought was a discarded piece of clothing.
Upon closer examination, they found the lower half of a body, which had been completely reduced to bones except for three toes. Other body parts were found nearby, where it appeared the body had decomposed. The parts had been scattered over a wide area due to scavenging animals.
Park said that animal activity is likely to blame for the late discovery of the new parts. A wide search was conducted following the initial discovery of the remains, including through the area where the new parts were found, he said.
“These bones were found by animal dens, badger dens, which could explain why there were not bones in that area when they searched before,” he said.
Because of the state of the body, which was determined to have been in the desert anywhere from six months to three years, and lack of a skull, identification of the body stalled. Bone evidence concluded the man was in his early 20s, and the style and type of clothing lingering on the remains suggested drug and gang activity.
Park said although the new discovery includes some teeth, he doesn’t expect them to lead to a conclusive identification.
“Teeth are an excellent way for body identification if you kind of know who it is and can go to the dentist and get those records,” he said, noting the problem was further compounded by the likelihood that the man was from Mexico and had no ties to this area. “If that’s the case, even dental would be very, very difficult.”
Creating a facial reconstruction from the parts of the skull now found is unlikely to be successful, too, Park said, given that the jawbone has not yet been located and other parts of the skull have been damaged.
“I didn’t see the bones, but from what I was told, I don’t think there would be enough for a full facial reconstruction,” he said.
The medical examiner’s inspection will include trying to determine whether the damage to the skull was a product of animal scavenging or human violence, Park said.