Probable Identification from a Single Innominate Caught on a Fishing Hook

Case Report

Austin J Forensic Sci Criminol. 2015;2(2): 1022.

Probable Identification from a Single Innominate Caught on a Fishing Hook

Midori Albert*

Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA

*Corresponding author: Midori Albert, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403-5907, USA

Received: March 09, 2015; Accepted: April 15, 2015; Published: May 20, 2015


This forensic anthropology case report involves an osteological examination of a single innominate bone caught by a fisherman while fishing on an ocean pier. The bone was skeletonized, odoriferous, with adherent barnacles; and it was determined to be from a young adult human male, about 24 or 25 to 29 years of age at the time of death. The main focus of the investigation was to ascertain whether or not the bone could have belonged to one of two missing individuals-one of whom was missing for five years (aged 18 years at the time of the missing persons report, but who could conceivably have been 23 years old if death occurred four months before the bone’s recovery) and the other who was witnessed to have drowned about four months prior to the discovery of the bone, and who was 25 years old at the time of death. This case is meaningful inasmuch as a significant amount of information could be gleaned from this one postcranial bone leading to a probable identification, whereas typically the best outcome for identification is derived from the recovery and analysis of nearly complete skeletal remains, especially if the skull/dentition is included. Presently, mtDNA results are pending; it is hopeful that the outcome will support a positive identification and closure to the case.

Keywords: Human innominate; Sex; Ancestry; Anomalies

Case Presentation

Detectives from the Carolina Beach, North Carolina, Police Department came to the Human Osteology and Forensic Anthropology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) with a human innominate for osteological and forensic examination. The bone was discovered when a fisherman reeled it in from the ocean while fishing from Kure Beach Pier. The primary question was whether or not the bone could be determined to belong to either one of two individuals-a white male, aged 23 years (missing for five years, last seen at the beach, who was 18 years old at the time of the missing persons report; but, if deceased, he could have died anytime between ages 18 and 23 years), or a black male, aged 25 years who was witnessed to have drowned in a rip current in the ocean, roughly four months prior to discovery of the bone.

Evidence Condition and Time Since Death

The innominate (i.e., hip bone) was human and fully skeletonized, mostly dry, and highly malodorous. Since it is difficult to distinguish between decomposition odor and odor from a marine context [1] it is not known how long ago death occurred based solely on odor.

There was some minor erosion of bone, likely due to exposure to the marine environment (i.e., submersion and movement in salt water). Given that the erosion was minor, and because there was access to the water surface, and likely access to scavengers, as well as water movement, decomposition was probably accelerated. Based on these factors, a time since death estimation of less than a decade, and perhaps less than five years, is reasonable [1,2]. Further, there is evidence that complete skeletonization in a saltwater environment can be achieved in as few as 38 days postmortem [3].

There was evidence of encrustation; small barnacles had grown on the ilium and ischium (Figure 1). Barnacles are highly variable in terms of their growth and development, and lifespan. Once larvae attach to a firm substrate (e.g., bone), the overall time of development has been noted to occur in as few as 7 to 13 days; and some species of barnacles may live for up to 3 to 5 years [1].