Sheriff reports skull found in northern Panola 1/17/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 17, 2014

Sheriff reports skull found in northern Panola

By John Howell Sr.

A man searching Monday for a horse missing in the northeast corner of Panola County found a human skull instead, launching an investigation that will probably take weeks to unfold.

The skull was upside down in a remote area south of the terminus of Earnest Pratcher Road, between Partee Road and Highway 310.

“It was laying right on top of the ground, with teeth showing; only two teeth were left,” Sheriff Dennis Darby said.

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And there was an apparent gunshot wound, Chief Deputy Chris Franklin said, with entry in the back right side, exit through the front left cheek.

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s department, joined by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, returned to the site with three dogs specially-trained to locate human remains and searched the area near the spot where the skull was found. They found no human bones but many cow bones and deer bones. Deer carcasses are regularly dumped in the area, and scavengers scatter the bones, Darby said.

By Thursday, Panola County Coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge was with the skull in Jackson at a private biological lab that can perform testing for DNA.

“Those two teeth are the only chance we have for DNA,” Darby said.

The skull will then be turned over to the State Crime Lab. Technicians will also estimate the age and gender of the victim and estimate the time of death. The sheriff said that the skull was small, perhaps that of a child or a female victim. The investigation could lead to forensic technicians building a model of the victim’s face to help with identification, the sheriff said.

DNA results could help authorities positively identify or rule out a missing person as the victim, Darby said, by comparing it with DNA of a close relative of the missing person.

The sheriff said that law enforcement and search and rescue personnel will return to the site to conduct a grid search.

“We’ll spread out and walk real slow,” he said.

The information authorities gather from their investigation will be listed with the National Crime
Information Center (NCIC) in hope of learning the victim’s identity, the sheriff said.