What Can We Learn From the Human Skull Found in Cottonwood Heights?

UPDATE: According to preliminary reports from the Medical Examiner's Office, we now know that the human skull and bones found in Deaf Smith Fork Canyon over the weekend are that of a female believed to be between 30 and 50 years old, the Unified Police Department tweeted this morning.  

This remains an ongoing investigation.  More details as thy become available.

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah (ABC4 News) - Twenty-four hours after hikers stumbled upon human remains in Cottonwood Heights investigators and forensics teams are beginning to put the story together of who this person was and their death in Cottonwood Heights.  

Sunday afternoon investigators arrived on scene to a trail behind a neighborhood near 8800 Kings Hill Dr. in the Deaf Smith Fork Canyon area after a few hikers had discovered a human skull, a few bones and some camouflage clothing.  

Not much is know about who this person is or how they ended up in the desolate area a mile from the start of the trail.  But what forensics teams with the Unified Police Department have been able to learn is that this person was small stature, a little taller than 5 feet, and had fillings in their teeth.  

"We're gonna start local," said Lt. Brian Lohrke with the Unified Police Department.  "Just start with the information that we have right away and the information that is accessible and tools that we have here in the valley to try to examine the bones and try to identify this person."

Investigators will begin by looking at missing persons reports from the immediate area and expand outward. 

"We've already started receiving phone calls from family members and loved ones, 'is this possibly so and so who's possibly been missing from whenever they went missing?" said Lohrke.

Meanwhile forensics teams will be diligently learning from the bones hoping to begin a storyline of this persons life. They'll be running tests and x-rays on the bones.  Looking at the strength of the bones and for any cracks and signs of surgery or disease.  All signs that can help paint a picture of who this person was, where they may have come from and how they would've ended up out in the area.  They're looking at the teeth in particular. 

"You can look at the type of filling that are in the teeth and the skull and see if they're from the modern age or to see if they're from technology they used back in the 60's or 70's," Lt. Lohrke said.  

The teeth, he added, can even help identify an age and a possible gender on the person.  As for any signs of foul play, Lohrke says it's too hard to tell.

Animals in the area may have disturbed the scene causing trauma to the bones.  Also, the elements may have played a role.  Lohrke says the body was found in an area heavily littered by plants, trees and rocks.  Forensics teams will also be looking to salvage any DNA from the bones.  The recent winter may have preserved vital DNA evidence but because it's still not known how long the body may have been there, it's possible it may have seen several changes in seasons.  Cold temperatures may have preserved much of the evidence but warmer temperatures may have deteriorated it also.  

Lt. Lohrke adds that investigators will be returning to the scene with cadaver dogs in the near future to widen the search area and try to find any more clues, evidence, and bones that they may have missed the first time around. 

If you have any information on who this person is you're asked to contact the Unified Police Department at (801) 743-7000.


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