Local News

Investigation Of Skull Found In Home Hits 'Frustrating' Delay

Posted April 25, 2003

— The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office wants to know if a skull found in an empty home this week matches a headless body found in a nearby lake six years ago.

One test could give investigators the answer. The problem is, months could pass before that test is complete.

Cumberland County investigators wonder if the skull belongs to Mauricio Campana, whose decapitated body was found in a lake in 1997. The two locations - the lake and the attic where the skull was found - are just a mile apart.

Detectives hope a DNA test will provide answers. But the State Bureau of Investigation's Crime Lab may not get to the test for more than five months.

"It becomes frustrating," said Lt. Sam Pennica of the Sheriff's Office. "When you are working cases like this, you want to get answers as quick as you can so the case can proceed. Not having an ID on the skull slows things down almost to a standstill."

For months now, the state crime lab has come under scrutiny. Thousands of pieces of evidence are on shelves waiting to be tested.

Murders and police shootings get top priority. But the lab's assistant director said this case doesn't meet the criteria for a rush job.

"Those cases where they are getting ready for trial and the district attorney doesn't have the evidence to put a person who's committed a heinous crime behind bars, that's a priority for us," Bill Weis said.

Weis said the lab will remain swamped until it gets more resources. The state is funding and training more lab technicians, and the General Assembly is considering bills that would provide more support.

That doesn't do much for Cumberland County investigators, who say they don't have the time to wait; If the skull doesn't match the headless body, they could have a new murder case on their hands.

Facing a tight budget, the sheriff may consider using a private lab.

"What would have to be done in this case could run up to $3,000," Pennica said.

The Sheriff's Office is looking at several other options. It's trying to track down Campana's dental records. It's also sending his picture to the medical examiner's office.

The picture will be superimposed over the skull to check for similarities in the bone structure. It's not an exact science, but it will let investigators know if there's a chance the skull is Campana's.


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