TUCSON — Scientific efforts are underway to develop a DNA profile from human bones discovered this summer in a remote area of the Chiricahua Mountains, according to Dr. Gregory Hess, the chief medical examiner for Pima County.
The bone fragments were recovered in August by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) search and rescue team near Rustler Park in the Coronado National Forest. They were then transferred to Hess’ team in Tucson to obtain information that will help identify who the bones belong to.
“None of the fragments could help us determine sex, age, stature, etc.,” Hess told the Herald/Review. “So those things are still unknown.”
But that hasn’t stopped Hess’ efforts to ascertain the identity.
“A bone sample was sent to University of North Texas in September for DNA testing,” Hess said. “UNT is developing a profile from our submitted sample.”
UNT is home to the Center for Human Identification, an accredited forensic laboratory in Fort Worth that works closely with NamUs, the national missing and unidentified persons database overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Once the DNA profile is available, it can be compared to genetic data about various missing persons. Hess said UNT doesn’t provide timelines for completing its work and reporting its findings.
When the bones were found, CCSO spokeswoman Carol Capas said there was no indication "at this time" of a connection to the disappearance of Paul Fugate, a U.S. park ranger last seen in the Coronado National Forest on Jan. 13, 1980. He was in uniform at the time.
A $60,000 reward was recently confirmed by federal authorities for information about what happened to Fugate, who was 41 when he disappeared.
Other persons reported missing from the Rustler Park area include New Mexico resident Lydia “Janet” Castrejon and Laurence Kosden of Tucson.
Castrejon, 44, was last seen by her parents June 19, 2015, during a family camping event with church friends.
The mother purportedly stopped to use a park restroom while her daughter waited outside. When the mom came back out, the daughter was gone.
The family believes Castrejon, described as five-foot two-inches tall and about 250 pounds, was abducted from the area. Her disappearance and a $20,000 reward were featured on Dateline NBC, but Capas said no information was developed about Castrejon’s whereabouts.
Kosden, 69, was reported missing Sept. 19, 2015, after he failed to return home after a planned trip to southeast Cochise County. His vehicle was found abandoned at Rustler Park with a parking pass, which showed he entered the campground Sept. 13.
A Cochise County judge later ruled Kosden “is determined to have died” Sept. 13 based on “circumstantial evidence” even though his body wasn’t found.
The ruling bypassed the state’s usual five-year waiting period.