GUADALUPE COUNTY — Police in New Braunfels spent much of the day Wednesday combing an area of the city where a utility worker found what officials are describing only as “human skeletal remains.”
David Ferguson, New Braunfels Police Department’s communications coordinator, provided few new details Wednesday following release of a written statement and a pair of brief press conferences about the investigation that began on Tuesday.
Well before noon Wednesday, a contingent of the New Braunfels Community Emergency Response Team had gathered at the scene of the discovery and prepared to scour the area in search of evidence.
Police, including crime scene technicians, had descended upon the location near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 1044 and Green Valley Road to help in the investigation.
The utility worker found what is believed to be the remains of an adult human, and the search continued for additional remains, Ferguson said. Investigators were unable to determine the age, gender or other identifying information about the remains without further forensic analysis, he said.
Officials were unsure how long it would take to receive any analysis results providing clues into the case, Ferguson said.
“The New Braunfels Police Department is investigating,” he said. “We have a good reputation for getting to the bottom of things and we’ll do that here.”
They are involved in a detailed process that could take some time to completely unravel and obtain all the answers investigators seek, said Daniel Wescott, director of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University in San Marcos. Wescott holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and said he and his center were involved in the police department’s investigation beginning Tuesday.
He would not provide specific details about the case, but offered insight into how such a case might progress, clues used to make determinations and ways of extracting and analyzing evidence.
In cases such as the one in New Braunfels, the first step is to determine whether the remains are those of a human or some other animal. After learning the remains belong to a human, more work is involved, Wescott said.
Those involved in determining a cause of death will try to find evidence of trauma on the remains, if there is any, and determine how the trauma occurred, he said.
“We’d be looking for cut marks, gunshot wounds, things of that nature,” Wescott said. “In a lot of cases there’s no way of telling. It depends on if there’s damage to the skeleton or not. If they died of a heart attack it’s not going to show on the skeleton.”
Remains can be used to fairly quickly reveal identifying information about the decedent, he said. That includes information about the dead person’s age, sex, ancestry and stature, Wescott said.
From there, investigators usually begin to search records for missing individuals to find a match.
“That can take an extensive amount of time, depending on what’s going on,” Wescott said.
Recovery and mapping as much of the remains as possible is a key component to solving the mystery, he said. That information can be entered into a database to help locate possible matches, Wescott said.
It was about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday when utility crews working in the area discovered “an item that appeared to be human skeletal.” They called police and an investigation ensued.
A statement Ferguson released Wednesday morning said that initial forensic analysis indicated the remains are of an adult. Police limited the amount of information released citing the ongoing investigation.
While the investigation continues, Ferguson said, police did not anticipate returning to the search site on Thursday.