Now that facial approximation models have been released for the remains found in Cana last year, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office hopes it will lead to the identity of the person.
On April 1, 2012, human skeletal remains were discovered in Cana after the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office got a call to respond to Timber Road, where a man picking up trash discovered the remains while clearing a wood line on a piece of property. The remains were taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke for further investigation. Those remains are believed to belong to a male between the ages of 25 to 35 of mixed ethnicity (possibly Hispanic), who was approximately 5 feet, 7 inches tall.
On January 16, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia in Roanoke released the facial approximations of four deceased individuals whose bodies were found in separate areas of western Virginia between 1986 and 2012, including the remains found in Carroll County last year. Currently, the medical examiner’s office has 220 sets of remains for unidentified individuals who died in Virginia, some dating back to the 1970s.
“We hope that by presenting the facial approximations to the public someone will recognize one of these individuals as his or her long lost loved one,” said Chief Medical Examiner Leah Bush, MS, MD. “We’re working with sheriff’s offices in Alleghany, Carroll, Lee and Pittsylvania counties to help identify these remains, and we encourage anyone with any information on these individuals to contact us.”
Forensic anthropologists and artists with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Anthropology Services and Forensic Imaging Unit constructed the facial approximations. Photographs of the facial approximations have been entered into the case files of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems, a web-based computer search engine for matching missing and unidentified persons.
With so many remains still unidentified in Virginia, Gardner said the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office was extremely fortunate to have been included in the unveiling of the four facial approximations. He said the Cana body were included in those approximations because the skeletal remains were so well preserved.
“For us, they recovered enough to go on to make one. Sometimes they are scattered out, but ours was reasonably intact and they had no trouble. There was enough to work with,” Gardner said. “I was surprised ours was chosen right off the bat, but we were excited, especially with as many as there are.”
While Gardner said his department didn’t really learn anything new about the remains at the press conference, he is hopeful the facial approximations will jog someone’s memory or lead someone to recognize the missing person.
“I agree with what they are doing to get it out to the public. I think press will help us more than anything as far as finding out who it is,” Gardner said. “Ours is a little difficult because it occurred several years ago, but somebody might have an idea or thought to let us know what’s going on. We want to know who it is. At the press conference, they said the purpose of doing this is to try to bring closure on cases for the families.”
Additionally, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office has released new images of items found on the body in Cana last April. Images include a belt buckle, a patch off a pair of jeans, and a Sketchers’ boot.
“Those were things we recovered at the scene and we thought somebody might recognize those, somebody might have recognized somebody that had a belt buckle like that at some time, for instance,” Gardner said.
Photographs of the facial approximations are also available online at www.vdh.virginia.gov/medexam/missingperson.htm. Anyone with information or questions about these individuals should call the Western District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at (540) 561-6615.