Lubbock homicide investigators now have a face to go with the human remains found last year in Yellow House Canyon. The Lubbock Medical Examiner determined the bones belonged to an African-American or Hispanic teenager. And now, a Texas Ranger forensic artist was able to create a sketch after carefully studying the remains.
Two people discovered the remains December 29th off of FM Road 835 in Yellow House Canyon, which is just east of Buffalo Springs Lake. NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire explains how investigators went from only remains and a crime scene, to a composite sketch.
"Bones don't talk to us," said Texas Tech Anthropologist Dr. Robert Paine, "but we learn how to read them, like you would read a map and they can tell us what's happened to the individual."
Homicide cases start with the initial crime scene, information then goes to the medical examiner, who, if needed, turns information over to Paine. He uses evidence found at the crime scene to determine the individual's profile. Paine starts every investigation laying out the bones in the anatomical position, he then carefully examines the remains which will tell him the person's height, age, sex, body build and possible cause of death.
Ridges in the pelvic bone can tell Paine if the individual is a man or a woman. Various ridges in the cranium can also determine sex, and measuring the femur determines height.
Paine said the work isn't hard, but it's a skill and you only have one chance to get it right. "If you don't do it right the first time, then going in and moving things around and disrupting the crime scene, you may lose evidence and information."
Paine turns his report over to the Texas Rangers Forensic Science Department in Austin. They determine what the facial tissue looks like, then finally after starting from scratch, they produce a composite sketch.
Texas Rangers Forensic Scientist Shirley Timmons came up with the sketch for the Lubbock County case. "It's a challenge and a mystery and when you finally get a face on it it's a feeling of accomplishment and I hope they will be identified," Timmons told NewsChannel 11 in a phone interview.
The sketch depicts a young man between the ages of 12 and 19. He had short black hair, and is believed to be either Hispanic or African-American. He was between 5'6'' and 5'9''. Authorities believe he died six to 18 months ago.
Tissue samples have been submitted for DNA testing in hopes of finding a match with a missing person's database. In the meantime, if you have any information that could identify the young man, you are urged to contact Crime Line at (806) 741-1000. Callers can remain anonymous.
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