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Durham Tech Students Dig for Bones, Clues

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MEBANE — It has been months since the skeleton of a young boy was found in Orange County, and investigators still have very little to go on. The boy has never been identified and never matched a missing child report.

Now the investigation may get a boost from some college students.

Criminal justice students atDurham Techhave been studying forensic anthropology in the classroom. Saturday, they conducted a grid search of the wooded area where the skeleton was found, and got a hands-on lesson at a real crime scene.

Students searched for clues that might put a name to the skeletal remains of a ten to 12-year-old boy found last September.

The body was found near a service road off I-85 in Orange County. Investigators believe the boy died around this time last year. They still do not know how he died.

Sheriff's deputies have combed this area several times. The students looked for more bones or anything that might have been overlooked.

"They're also looking for other identifying materials such as buttons on the clothes, jewelry, or anything that might potentially identify who this victim was," says Durham Tech instructor Doug Scott.

The search turned up some strands of hair that might belong to the victim. Students collected the evidence, bagged it and photographed it following the same procedures as professional investigators.

"You get more hands-on experience than just being inside the classroom and working, looking at the board and writing stuff down," says student Hope Allen. "So it's very exciting."

This is a rare opportunity to apply what they have learned in books to a real crime scene. Instructors hope it will not be the last.

"We're trying to get the students involved in more field work so you get a true knowledge of logistics and other things that are faced by professionals in the field," Scott said.

Orange County investigators sent the skull to the Smithsonian last fall for a facial reconstruction. It will not be back for a few months. Until then, they still do not have much to go on.