LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — In less than two weeks two sets of human remains have been discovered at Lake Mead, one of them inside a barrel that washed ashore.
In that case police believe the man was shot and killed in the 70s or 80s. Then on Saturday two paddleboarders came across what they thought was a rock but turned out to be bones.
Currently, neither of the people in those cases have been identified. So what does that process of identifying skeletal remains look like after someone is missing for so many years? Doctor Min Kim of Hollywood Smile Dentistry shared some details he was able to obtain just by looking at the photos from the scene on Saturday.
“It was definitely surreal,” Lindsey Melvin who found the bones Saturday told 8 News Now. “But i think there is a larger part of me that is happy that this person was found because I’m sure they have family that wants to know what happened to them.”
Melvin recalls the moment she discovered the human remains in the sand at Callville Bay, but with the remains now in the hands of the coroner’s office, dentist Dr. Min Kim of Hollywood Smile Dental weighed in on how the teeth seen in one of the photographs can help determine the person’s identity.
“Based on the picture I saw, it looks like it’s their actual teeth and not crowns or veneers,” Kim told 8 News Now. “The victim had a lot of missing teeth and only had four teeth remaining in the skull and those teeth were internally stained with a little bit of a cracked line in the picture so those are real teeth.”
Dr. Kim says in order to verify whether the teeth are real, UV light testing needs to be done. Dr. Kim also has his ideas of whether this person was a female or a male. “Based on the picture, the victim had a square jawline and a prominent supraorbital bone structure, which means the victim was a male based on my opinion,” Kim said.
And while it may be difficult to find out the identity of these remains, it is possible. “We can run DNA testing which is known as a Polymerase chain reaction where you can extract DNA samples from the teeth or bone structure,” Kim told 8 News Now. “PCR basically amplifies millions of copies of DNA using a small DNA sample so that scientists and experts can analyze it and identify the victim.”
Dr. Kim also says from the picture he could see signs of indentation that showed where the wisdom teeth had been extracted stating that he believes this male was an adult.
While DNA can be helpful in identifying remains, it will only lead to a match if that person’s DNA has already been collected by police or someone else before they died.