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Anthropologist called in to help investigate human remains found in North Side Chicago basement

Anthropologist called in for body found on Chicago's North Side
Anthropologist called in for body found on Chicago's North Side 00:25

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An anthropologist has been called in to help with the effort to identify skeletal remains found in the basement of a house in the West Ridge community.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office said it has brought in the anthropologist for a better picture of what happened to the remains.

As explained by the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian in Washington, a forensic anthropologist gathers information from bones and their recovery context to help determine the identity of a person who has died – as well as how they died and how long ago.

For a skeleton – whether the context is a death investigation or an archaeological mission – a forensic anthropologist can "read the evidence in a skeleton like you read a book," as the museum put it.

"The techniques they use to answer questions in criminal cases can be applied to skeletons of any age, modern or ancient. The stages of growth and development in bones and teeth provide information about whether the remains represent a child or adult. The shape of pelvic bones provides the best evidence for the sex of the person. Abnormal changes in the shape, size and density of bones can indicate disease or trauma. Bones marked by perimortem injuries, such as unhealed fractures, bullet holes, or cuts, can reveal cause of death," the museum said on its website. "The trained anthropologist is also able to identify skeletal clues of ancestry. Even certain activities, diet, and ways of life are reflected in bones and teeth."

The human remains found on Monday, Feb. 12, in a house at 2835 W. Fitch Ave. have not been identified – and what happened to them remained unclear more than a week later.

Police said at 11:15 a.m. that morning, what they called possible human remains were found in the house, located between California and Francisco avenues and half a block south of busy Touhy Avenue.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office later came to the scene to remove an intact body from the house.

Neighbors said the homeowner died about a week earlier, and family members came Monday to clean out the house. While clearing things out and packing boxes, family members stumbled across a body. They immediately called 911.

The evening after the body was found, neighbors were shocked by the gruesome discovery.

"It's kind of scary, honestly – like not knowing that there's something, like there's a person possibly dead in the house, and like not knowing that that's happening," neighbor Alana Wakschlad said last week. "I've walked past this house so many times, and you know, I wouldn't have even known at all."

Neighbor Larry Baer said last week that his wife had had interactions with the homeowner who died last week – whom Baer identified as "Jerry." The homeowner never mentioned anyone living with him," Baer said.

Baer said the homeowner was known for just sitting in his car at all hours of the day and night.

"We didn't know if he was alone and maybe he didn't want to be inside the house. Maybe something happened," Baer said. "Apparently, it looks like that's the case."

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