Special Agent Art Eberhart and his team of investigators arrived in Kosovo two weeks ago to catalog hard evidence for the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic and members of his regime.
Eberhart routinely performs autopsies as victims' families observe. He is haunted by the memory of one exhumation conducted while the victim's son, grandson, and brother looked on.
"It's just the emotion. I mean, you can feel it," says Eberhart. "They understood why we were there. And I can certainly understand their pain and sorrow."
In this case, family members returned in late June and found their house had been ransacked. "They started looking for family members," Eberhart says. "None were around. They noticed that their well was filled with rock and debris. And they literally started cleaning out the well. Not knowing what they were going to findÂ… They finally cleared all the debris out and they found clothing, and then nine bodies of their family. Their ages were from two years of age to 85 years of age."
These agents have investigated everything from the crash of TWA Flight 800 to the most gruesome serial killings. But never, Eberhart admits, have they seen anything like this.
"This will live with me forever," the agent says. "People have been crying on my shoulders almost every day here. And that's going to stay with me forever."
FBI investigators are focusing their work in the town of Gjacova, a community of 70,000 Moslems and Albanians who have lived under Serb control for ten years.
Dr. Bill Rodriguez is the project's chief medical examiner. "It's just as if people were minding their own lives, and people came in and just killed them at random...with almost no thought," says Rodriguez. "You know, it's almost machine-like killing is what comes to mind. I think people get caught up in the moment of aggression of killing another group that they have religious objections to, cultural objections to, and it's more a frenzy killing."
Dr. Bill Rodriguez
On the first night of NATO bombing, Serbs began their sweep of Gjacova in the old quarter of town where police sacked Albanian homes and businesses. Kosovar Albanians hiding in their basements were pulled into the street and shot. Others were burned to death.
Today, the town of Gjacova is a burial ground of fresh graves with no names. Every day, families come to raise the dead as they pull unidentified bodies from the ground one by one, searching for a loved one.
Nasmi Hoxha is still looking for his brother. "It is very important for me to know his body, because I couldn't help him at that moment when he was killed by policemen. So I am very interested to find him because he was my only brother," Hoxha explains. "He was 15."
Hoxha says police pulled his brother from the family home in the middle of night and shot him. "My brother died as a brave man. He didn't cry. My sister was with him. He stood with his head down, without crying. No shouting. You know, I think he dies as a brave man, even though he was in the early years. He believed in God."
It would be easy to feel that God had forsaken this place and these people. But refugees are still returning home to Gjacova, a city they no longer recognize and a place where everyone is in mourning.
Special Agent Paul Mallot showed 60 Minutes II one of the murder scenes where six people were shot to death and subsequently burned. He is stockpiling every bullet, every fact and every photograph, a preparation for the war crimes trial that awaits the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic and his top lieutenants.
"I'm certain that they burned the bodies and in other instances they buried the bodies so that there would be no evidence of the atrocities," says Mallot. "In the crime scenes that we have investigated, they were unsuccessful. We have found shell cases, we have found skeletons and skulls with indications of bullet damage."
But the Serbs' plot to conceal the carnage by setting the remains ablaze has proven futile. Mallot points to one casket which holds the remains of 20 civilians.
Dr. Rodriguez refers to his own troubling discovery. "I was going through a set of remains of a young female that was in her early 20s, and as I was piecing through the few hundred fragments, I found probably a total of six or seven small bones that were identifiable as that of a young infant approximately two years of age," says Rodriguez. "It was certainly cler evidence that the mother had the child, and they had been murdered together. It's sad, sad. And, you know, we've seen in many of our other sites multiple children. One can sometimes try to rationalize adults killing adults. But adults killing defenseless children, infants who have no concept of war or death being murdered?"
"We have seen a number of sites and we're certain that we've only scratched the surface," Rodriguez continues. "We have families coming up to us as we get out at different locations, 'come to my house. I have dead here that need to be identified. Come find my brother. Come find my baby'."
Every day now, people in Gjacova pay their respects as funeral processions pass by. The luckiest are those who actually know the names of the dead. Nasmi Hoxha and his family have joined that fortunate few. They finally found the body of his 15-year-old brother in an unmarked grave.
As prayers for the dead are sung to the rhythm of the pickax, gravediggers prepare grave number 230, where Hoxha will be wrapped in a blanket and buried simply among the thousands who perished at the hands of Serbian police.