07
Aug
06

“Three Skulls in a Ballroom”

Jayne wrote:

I think it’s creepier going under the house than finding the bones. I’m very claustrophobic. I have a question for you: Back in 1991 (in Hermann, MO) my dad bought this old general store that also had a ballroom and small stage. My brothers and I were exploring the ballroom which was filled with all sorts of neat things left behind years ago. I got the fright of my life when I found a box, opened it, and three skulls on top of a pile of costumes were staring up at me. Although we called the police, they sent over the coroner who just picked up the bones and left. We did find out that they were human, but that was it. It seemed odd that we never heard anything more and there seemed to be no investigation. Neither was there any mention in the news. I know you don’t have the answer, but would just like your point of view on this. Was this handled normally? Or was it small town indifference toward old bones? How would such a discovery be handled (such as the bones under the house) if bones were human?

Jayne:

I hate to make assumptions without knowing all the particulars of the case, but since you asked for my point of view it sounds fairly normal to me. In many cases, about the only thing a coroner/medical examiner can do with certain skeletal remains is determine the sex, race, gender, and age of the deceased based on certain skeletal traits and measurements. A dental comparison or DNA extraction might be possible, but unless there are dental records or an existing DNA profile from a suspected individual to compare with, then all the dental restorations or genetic material in the world is of little value.

Unless there was an apparent traumatic injury to one of the skulls, chances are there was very little the coroner/medical examiner could do to determine the cause and manner of death when the rest of the remains are absent. As such, the investigation—which is really just a partial examination—may not yield anything worth reporting and give the impression that no investigation was conducted. I would guess that the skulls were sealed up and stored at the morgue until a positive I.D. could be made.

Unless the media knew specifically that the skulls were discovered, they wouldn’t have had a reason to call the morgue and ask for information regarding them, so it’s likely there was nothing ever reported in the news.

When it comes to the scene detailed in “Them Bones‿, if I had determined that the bones were human, I would have backed out of the scene immediately and contacted the police department’s crime scene unit to see if they wanted to document the scene before I proceeded. From there, we would work the scene as thoroughly as we would any other suspicious death. Believe it or not, bones are found quite frequently. Fortunately they are almost always determined to be non-human.

A Douglas

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1 Response to ““Three Skulls in a Ballroom””


  1. August 10, 2006 at 1:04 am

    The very same question came up on a TV programme here (Australia) last night. Old box with 3 skulls and sundry bones in amongst the grandmother’s things. Turned out to be a medical student’s equipment from half a century ago.


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