Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $175,359)
The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME) in Tucson, Arizona, serves as the investigatory body for reportable deaths within Pima County, as well as neighboring Santa Cruz and Cochise counties. The PCOME provides contracted medical examiner services for agencies throughout the state of Arizona. Internal records indicate there were 131 individuals examined before the year 2000 who remain unidentified in Pima County. Of these, 54 cases are deemed legacy cases that have never undergone DNA analysis. The proposed project will exhume and reexamine this legacy casework and provide practical experience for a Forensic Anthropology Postdoctoral Fellow responsible for managing this project. The project will focus on cases with from 1964 to 1999 with remains that were buried prior to the retention of DNA samples. This funding request would support a Forensic Anthropology Postdoctoral Fellowship position, and cover the cost of exhuming 32 coffins containing 54 unidentified decedents for updated forensic examinations using modern methods, including DNA sample collection. DNA-based matches are the most likely method of identification for all of these individuals due to limited casefiles and the passage of time. For those whose death was ruled a homicide, this project may aid in the possible apprehension of the perpetrator(s) if the victims are identified. This funding would provide the best chance at identifying these individuals, and returning their remains to their loved ones with potential justice served.