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Going through the forensic process when human remains are found

Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Collecting valuable evidence from a crime scene takes a lot of work, from analyzing miniscule details to preserving the site for further investigation.

Between the remains found on Route 20 and the remains found near Auburn Street in recent weeks, 23 News spoke to officials about what forensic investigators go through. Depending on the case, it can be a long process. The first step, regardless of the case is to ask questions.

Matt Davis of the Illinois State Police says, “Different laws apply to the handling and mitigation of those scenes. We want to make sure we make that determination up front. Are they of a medical, legal context? Are these modern remains, a missing person, potentially a homicide victim or are these disturbed prehistoric remains or cemetery remains? An anthropologist can help with that examination by examining the site, scene and the remains themselves.”

Many departments are involved in evidence-gathering and deciding on criminal charges. But the local coroner is at the center of every case. Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz says, “It’s kind of like writing a book, the who, what, when, why, how. We can answer all of those questions through the different evolutions that we go through to try and figure out what happened.”

Hintz says a forensic Odontologist checks teeth and an anthropologist can determine race, age and more. But that can take days or weeks. Improved technology can extract DNA from bones. but at times it could take up to a year.

“Science does take a little bit of time That’s our job, we want to figure out who this person is and be able to let their loved ones know as soon as possible,” Hintz says.

“I would tell people it’s kind of simple as knowing the difference between here’s an apple and here’s an orange. If you have that expertise and that understanding of anatomy, it becomes a pretty straightforward determination,” Davis says.

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