Uncompahgre skull tested for DNA
A human skull found last fall on the Uncompahgre Plateau remains a mystery to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, which has pinned hopes in the case on DNA technology.
Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Henry Stoffel said laboratory specialists with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation extracted a DNA profile from the skull. The remains include a nearly full mandible and the upper portion of the head.
The DNA profile has been entered into a pair of national databases in hopes of a match, Stoffel said.
Seven months since the discovery, little else is known in the case. A forensic anthropologist determined it belonged to a white male and found no evidence of injury or trauma, Stoffel said.
“We’re in a holding pattern until we get a (DNA) match,” Stoffel said.
Western Colorado and Utah law enforcement agencies have reported the remains aren’t tied to any of the roughly two dozen combined missing persons investigations regionally, he said.
“All known missing persons have been eliminated,” Stoffel added.
The remains were found Oct. 4, 2011, by a group of Colorado Mesa University students collecting data on forest fire fuel loads. The skull was partially obscured by brush and grass several hundred yards off Divide Road.
Nothing else relevant to the discovery was collected at the site, Stoffel said.
The DNA extracted from the skull is being run through the Combined DNA Index System, a database maintained by the FBI including millions of profiles from arrestees and convicted felons. DNA also is being checked for a match among profiles in a missing-persons database maintained by the University of North Texas, which accepts DNA profiles free-of-charge from families of missing persons and law-enforcement agencies.
The systems are updated daily with new DNA.
“We could get a break tomorrow, a year or five years from now,” Stoffel said.