Forensics specialist explains process of identifying bodies when only bones are recovered

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BELTON, Mo. -- Many questions remain in Cass County, after two skulls were found. What exactly are investigators searching for? How will they identify the other body? FOX 4’s Megan Brilley spoke with a forensics specialist to answer some of those questions.

“You wanna have as many of the bones as possible because all of the bones tell different stories,” David Frayer explained.

Frayer worked as an anthropology professor at the University of Kansas, as well as a forensics specialist for 30 years. Police called him out to many crime scenes to help identify bones, very similar to the two skulls found in Cass County.

“If you have the right remains, you can tell a lot about that the trauma the person suffered before the person died,” Frayer said.

While David hasn’t worked on this specific case, using his experience, he believes Jessica Runions was identified quickly because her skull and teeth were likely still intact.

“As fast as they got it back, almost for sure they did some sort of dental analysis.”

Last night, police announced Runions' death is now ruled a homicide. Frayer believes forensics found some obvious bone trauma.

“If that individual stabbed her or hit her on the head, or whatever that person did to kill her, and it affected the bone, you'd be able to see that in the bone,” he said.

While it has not been confirmed, investigators believe the second skull found could belong to Kara Kopetsky, who disappeared 10 years ago. David says her remains will be much more difficult to identify. He says it is very likely, her skull was not intact, and that her teeth, lower jaw and other bones could’ve been scattered throughout this field.

“There are too many things that happen, predators, trampling, wind blowing. All kinds of natural occurrence that would scatter the bones.”

David says forensics will now take the remains found from the scene to a law and extra DNA from the bone. He says if Kara’s family has some of her baby teeth or hair, they could use that to try and match DNA on her skull. If not, it could take a very long time to get her family closure.

“That poor family has been waiting all this time. To stretch it out for another year must be awful.”

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