April 16, 2010

Remains believed to be from burial site

Cass County Sheriff Department seeks help of forensic pathologist

by Denise Massie

— After workers discovered skeletal remains Tuesday afternoon, the Cass County Sheriff Department sought the help of a forensic pathologist to determine whether the site was a crime scene.

“At this point, while it’s not 100 percent conclusive, we believe it is a historical burial site,” Cass County Coroner George Franklin said.

“Whether there is more than one or not, we don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, we are going to exhume this one.”

The sheriff’s department blocked off the area at 717 N. 600 East with yellow crime-scene tape and covered the area below the north end of the home with a blue tarp.

Franklin said the forensic pathologist, Krista Latham who is an assistant professor in the University of Indianapolis anthropology and biology department, will be the one to determine whether the site is a historical burial grounds. Latham brought along five graduate students to assist.

“She has been out here since early morning digging and unearthing,” he said.

Several items were found at the site, which is leading officials to believe it was a burial site. Those items included wood fragments believed to have been part of a coffin. Franklin said the wood will be examined by a professional. Small metal pieces were also discovered, including screws, nails and hinges.

“The body was entombed in a normal factor that someone would be buried in,” Franklin said. “They were on laid on their back and their arms were crossed.”

According to some historical and physical records , the area where the remains were found appears to be the Reed Private Cemetery, dating back to the 1830s.

It will still be several more days before Latham can make an official ruling, said Franklin. She will have to take the remains and dirt surrounding the remains back with her to perform microscopic examinations.

Franklin said it was work she couldn’t do at the scene.

If Latham concludes the area is a historical burial grounds, Franklin said the case will be turned over to the Department of Natural Resources, which would decide the next step.

“The coroner’s office will have control of the body and disposal of the body under the direction of the DNR, if it’s not forensic, which means it wasn’t any kind of crime scene,” said Franklin.

• Denise Massie is a staff writer at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5151 or