Investigators say they have a potential lead on the identity of the person whose skeletal remains were found Sunday morning between Wapato and Toppenish.
Jim Curtice, the Yakima County coroner, said an autopsy isn’t planned because the remains are all skeletal, with “very few bones.” Dental X-rays are the next step, Curtice said.
“We have one lead hopefully that will work,” he added. He couldn’t say how investigators got that lead.
“I’m hopeful that we can do that fairly quickly. If not, we’ll have to resort to DNA,” Curtice said. “There was quite a bit of structure left with the skull,” he said, so there’s a “good chance with identification.”
Yakima County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the area of North Track Road and Winaway Road about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, according to information provided by Casey Schilperoort, sheriff’s spokesman. Deputies were told by Yakama Nation Police Department officers of unidentified skeletal remains.
Hunters discovered the skull and long bones in a brushy area, Curtice said. He could not say how long the remains had been there or their gender or ethnicity. Though investigators have an idea of the gender, they won’t release that information until they are “100 percent certain,” he said.
An unmanned aircraft from Yakima Valley Emergency Management sent back images of the remains to sheriff’s office, tribal and FBI investigators.
Tribal police officers called the FBI to help with the investigation in the event the deceased person is a Native American, Schilperoort said. Federal authorities typically investigate and prosecute serious felony crimes on tribal land in the Yakama Nation reservation.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, Schilperoort said.