Portland find needs more time
Local investigators are awaiting results on a few fronts to help piece together what led to two bodies being left in the woods in the town of Portland.
The first step to potentially solving that mystery, according to Lt. Alex Nutt of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, likely requires identifying the first set of remains to determine if there is any connection to another set found nearby.
The second body already has been identified as Marquita Mull, a 50-year-old Buffalo woman previously reported missing. The Sheriff’s Office is currently working with police in Buffalo and the FBI on what began as a missing person investigation.
“It’s going to be really important on both cases,” Nutt said of learning more from the first set of remains, including identification, how long they have been there and a possible cause of death. “Once we know who that is, it will help us to understand if there are any links or if there is any connection. The investigation into Marquita Mull’s death is still moving forward with the help of the Buffalo Police Department and the FBI.”
Human remains were found the evening of Sept. 26 by a woman who had been looking for keys she had lost previously near the Chautauqua Rails to Trails system off Woleben Road in Portland. An analysis confirmed the remains were not those of Corrie Anderson or Lori Ceci Bova, two women reported missing in Chautauqua County.
Nutt said dental records from the unidentified remains have been entered into NamUS, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. He said they will be compared “side-by-side” with known records already on file, though the process will take time as comparisons are done on a first come, first serve basis.
At the same time, some of the skeletal remains have been sent to the New York State Police crime lab in Albany. The hope, Nutt said, is that a DNA profile can be established to then run through Combined DNA Index System — also known as CODIS — a DNA database created and maintained by the FBI.
Police can compare DNA profiles on remains found to missing person cases on file or through living relatives who provide a sample to see if there is a match.
The Sheriff’s Office is also awaiting a final report, expected shortly, from Mercyhurst University’s applied forensic sciences department. Mercyhurst has been called upon by police agencies to assist when remains are found.
See FIND, Page A6
Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat, department chairman, said the university can help process outdoor scenes by conducting searches to find all of the evidence, including bones; to differentiate human from animal bones; apply “forensic archaeological methods” to clear the scene without disturbing the evidence; and recover remains and evidence from “all types of scenes,” including surface scatter, buried bodies, fatal fires and mass disasters.
“Our primary goal is to reconstruct what happened in the past at the scene — how long ago it occurred, explain why remains are scattered, or missing or altered,” Dirkmaat told The Post-Journal earlier this month. “It is much more than just finding and collecting the human bones. Basically, we are trying to document and interpret the outdoor scene as well as the police document and interpret the indoor scene.”