Skeletal remains found on San Lorenzo River levee
Posted: 03/21/2009 01:30:04 AM PDT

An investigator searches for any possible clues... (Jeremiah Ridgeway/Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ -- Investigators scoured the San Lorenzo River basin near Water Street on Friday after finding human skeletal remains there, and have turned their attention to identifying them, police said.

Several bones were recovered after a search by divers, officers and cadaver dogs, said Sgt. Alan Burt of the county Coroner's Office. But identification can take time, he said.

"We're just in the recovery process," Burt said.

Santa Cruz police Sgt. Loren Baker said one more search will be done, as soon as police can assemble a large number of dogs and people to fan out and cover the area.

"We'd like to find a lot more," Baker said. "Unfortunately, the remains won't give us a lot right out of the chute."

Preliminary information, such as the gender and an approximate age of the person, should be determined next week, he added. Santa Cruz police say they don't have any recent missing persons cases in their jurisdiction.

The search was launched Saturday, when a woman walking her dog found a jawbone on the western side of the levee near the San Lorenzo Park foot bridge, police said. Officers searched the immediate area and did not find any other bones.

With help from cadaver dogs, additional skeletal remains were found Thursday evening a few blocks north, near the bridge at Water and Rivers streets. Investigators searched that area all day Friday.
Detectives processed the scene with help from forensic anthropologists
from UC Santa Cruz, Santa Clara County Search and Rescue and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner's Office, police said.

The coroner will be performing forensic tests on the skeletal remains to determine the gender, approximate age and any additional information, as well as the cause of death, police said.
Burt, of the Coroner's Office, said analysis of isotopes, DNA and dental records can all provide clues to the person's identity. If DNA can be recovered from the bones, and the person has a DNA profile on record, it can be fairly straightforward, he said. It can be more complicated if the person was not born in the Unites States, he said.

"There are a lot of things that can be done, but they all take time," Burt said. "Unfortunately the county has a lot of remote areas and we find bones fairly often."

Investigators asked anyone with information about this case to call 420-5820. To leave anonymous information, call 420-5995.