ROANOKE — The Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office has teamed up with the office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the Western District of Virginia to identify human remains that were found in Blairs in December 2005.
Dr. Paul Benson, assistant chief medical examiner, said the remains belong to a 26- to 35-year-old Caucasian or Asian male of Hispanic descent and approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall. The remains were discovered in the 200 block of Kendayl Road in Blairs.
Benson said the office of the Chief Medical Examiner became involved in a grant program through the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice in 2008 to provide a database for families and law enforcement to identify missing people.
“The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System — NamUs — is a database that takes into account multiple different forms of information about unidentified individuals and combines it to provide a database for families and law enforcement agencies to enter about possible unidentified or missing people to hopefully link up the information we have with the information that families or law enforcement have,” said Benson
Lt. Todd Barrett with the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office said a hunter found the remains in a wooded area. He would not comment on whether or not investigators believe foul play was involved because the investigation is ongoing, but he said police believe they may have an idea of who the man is.
Barrett said people had reported the man missing, but the only known relatives live in Mexico. Because there is no documentation on the family and no family in the area, attempts to reach the man’s family in Mexico have been unsuccessful.
Four models of facial approximations were on display at the news conference in Roanoke on Wednesday morning. Representatives from Alleghany, Lee and Carroll Counties were also present to discuss approximations made of remains found those counties.
In Virginia, Benson said there are 158 cases currently in the NamUs database. Of those cases, 18 have been closed by identification. Three of those cases started with recognition from a bust of the person, and identification was confirmed through DNA analysis, Benson said.
Donna Price, state projects administrator with the office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said the reconstructions are done by the FBI, and media coverage led to identification of three busts in the Eastern District. Price said she received calls from people who thought the busts were made from facial approximations of their family members.
Price said she encouraged families with missing loved — or family members who might have met with foul play — to report those people missing and enter their information into NamUs. Price said families can enter information without law enforcement, but in order to get a DNA sample on file help from a law enforcement agency would be needed in order to protect the chain of custody.
“It’s our hope that if someone recognizes or thinks they recognize any of the busts for the cases today they would contact the investigating law enforcement agency or even the medical examiner’s office to have inquiries responded about to about that case or provide more information about that case,” said Benson.
Roberts reports for the Danville Register & Bee.