April 23, 2010

Remains confirmed as human

Anthropologist says bones date back to 1800s

by Kevin Lilly

— A forensic pathologist from the University of Indianapolis has determined that skeletal remains discovered last week are human and came from a cemetery dating to the 1800s.

Cass County Coroner George Franklin says Krista Lathsam, an assistant professor of anthropology, contacted him Wednesday with results of a preliminary examination of the bones and other items excavated from a site overlooking the Eel River along 600 East just south of 100 North.

Franklin reported on Thursday that Latham confirmed the remains unearthed on April 13 were human. Artifacts found with the body — wood fragments, tacks, hinges, screws, nails and shell clothing buttons — indicated the burial dates from the early to mid-1800s, Franklin said.

When workers dug up the bones while installing a foundation, the Cass County Sheriff Department guarded the property around the clock as a possible crime scene.

Later in the week, Latham led an excavation team that discovered the body buried in Christian format, lying on its back in an east-west direction with the person’s hands and wrists crossed on the abdomen, Franklin said.

Latham and her team spent 10 hours on the site digging with spoons and trowels and sifting through each bit of soil, Franklin said.

The gender of the person remains a mystery, but Franklin said DNA testing on the bones should provide an answer in the coming weeks.

Franklin said research shows the site might have been the location of the Reed Family Cemetery. He said historical records state that there are between four and 18 people buried there. Of those, three were children and the rest were adults, Franklin said.

The property is owned by Mark Dillman of rural Peru, according to Cass County property records. Work on the property has been halted pending a ruling from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

• Kevin Lilly is news editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or