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Oklahoma investigator focused on unidentified remains

The Oklahoma state medical examiner's office has an investigator devoted full-time to working with unidentified remains.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Published: July 24, 2010

An investigator with the state medical examiner's office is working full-time to identify 92 sets of human remains found in Oklahoma.

These deaths occurred from the late-1970s to this year, office spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said.

H.L. Christensen was given the assignment early this year of working with remains that earlier investigations had failed to identify.

"In some cases we don't have a lot to work with, the find was simply a single bone or a fragment of bone, a fragment of skull," Christensen said. "There's a lot of cases where they (investigators) did everything they could during that time period obviously, but we want to make sure that we go back and review it and see if there's anything now that we can apply."

Facial reconstruction models, dental record matching and DNA profiling are technologies that continue to develop and may be re-applied to old cases, he said. Previous technology may not have been able to extract a DNA profile from a bone, for example, but a recently developed technique could be more successful.

Christensen also makes use of federally funded resources to match the remains with a name. The Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas helps coroners and law enforcement agencies deploy resources that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for local agencies.

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