DNA analysis on bones found in October by a Marathon Key resident may be presented to investigators in February.
The discovery, made by a woman who was gardening in her yard on 93rd Street, sent hope skyward for two families whose teenage girls disappeared there in 1974.
But the Monroe County Sheriff soon had to announce that the remains were not from the teens’ bodies.
“It was disappointing,” said Heather Walsh-Haney, Ph.D. She is an assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and often gets called in to assist in mysterious cases like this one.
Walsh-Haney said the teens were eliminated as murder victims as the earth released bone fragments and teeth to investigators.
“There was no way those remains could have come from two girls in the age ranges provided to us,” Walsh-Haney said. “It was unfortunate for those families. Everybody on the scene wanted there to be some closure for them.”
Bone samples were sent to the University of North Texas for DNA analysis, but Keys geology may hamper the genetic research.
“We have sectioned bones that we are going to send out to be analyzed for DNA, and that’s if they can actually extract the DNA found in collagen and dentin in bones and teeth,” Walsh-Haney said. “When those remains are in soil with salt, the organic materials can be absorbed in water and washed away. I’m not certain they will be able to extract DNA. It may not be there and it speaks to the environment we have in South Florida that is inhospitable.”
She said the bones have been there for “years” but won’t say more.
“I’m just not done piecing everything together,” she said.
The University of North Texas has had great success with cold cases, according to Walsh-Haney. “It’s a free service and they have robots that run the comparisons of the DNA to the National Center for Missing and Endangered Persons’ list, 24/7.”
The fragments from two adult skeletons did not reveal their gender when discovered because the pelvis bones were not there, she said.
The Monroe County Sheriff said last fall that the remains were most likely dumped there with fill that was brought in to the 93rd Street property years ago, rather than from a body that was buried at that location. Sheriff’s investigators hope to learn where the fill used on the 93rd Street property came from.