Chico State Human ID Lab receives human remains from Glenn Co.

Jun 25, 2014 6:54 PM by Brian Johnson

In its nearly 40 years of its existence, Chico State's Human ID Lab, part of the Department of Anthropology, has made a name for itself across Northern California for playing a crucial role in both digging up remains, and fleshing out the identification process.

Now, during a very busy time, they've got one more complicated case.
A Glenn County Sheriff's Office Detective dropped off the human remains found over the weekend at Chico State's Human Identification Lab Wednesday.

Sometimes evidence can change hands during the course of an investigation.
You might call what happened Wednesday a change of bones.
These partial bones from the lower part of a human body were found Saturday in the shallow waters of the Sacramento River bank, near Hamilton City.

"Since I was a child, I was always interested in archeology and anthropology and the skeletal system," said Eric Bartelink, Associate Professor of Anthropology and the lab's director.

As the partial Sacramento River bones are dropped off, Bartelink just so happens to be in the middle of a research project on bodies found in the Sacramento River.
He said human remains can separate as they travel down the river.

"[It] doesn't mean necessarily a dismemberment or something like that occurred, it could just be natural decomposition processes," Bartelink said.

But Bartelink said trauma is one part of what the Human ID Lab does with all incoming case work.

"Any case that we would do, we would look for evidence of trauma," Bartelink said. "That could be in the form of blunt trauma, sharp trauma, or gunshot wound trauma."

But as their name implies, human identification is why Northern California law enforcement agencies and medical examiner's offices have come to Chico State's storied and trusted lab, since the 1970s.

"You never know what you're going to get with phone calls," said Alex Perrone, the lab's supervisor.
Perrone takes those calls, and said the lab is ready for anything, from actual search and recoveries in the field, to case work behind these doors at the lab.

But they say more complicated cases, as it seems this latest one will be, take anywhere from one to two months to process.
In that time, they will look to identify sex, age of death, height, and even ancestry to better understand who this person might be.
But they can't always get them all.

"If you just have partial remains you might only be able to provide some information maybe something about the person's sex or height or something like that," Bartelink said.

At the end of the day, those inside the lab say it's fun work, with rewarding results.

"Just knowing how appreciative law enforcement are, as well as the family members when they get remains back knowing that everything was done that was possible to try to identify those people, [and] provide closure to families," Bartelink said.

Bartelink said they're busier than last year. He said they do about 50 cases a year, one a week, with about 15 volunteer search and recoveries.


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