A child's skeleton was found in the woods, and investigators are searching through a huge list of missing children to establish the juvenile's identity.
The Center for Missing Persons currently has about 12,000 cases statewide, and 75 percent of those cases are missing juveniles. Still, finding the identity of the Wendell victim is not easy.
Investigators say the body is that of a young woman between 15 and 20 years old. The center started with about 300 possibilities statewide. The process of elimination has brought that list down to 200.
"Some, we've not been able to eliminate completely," says Center Director John Goad. "So if we can't eliminate them completely, we have to consider them a viable possibility."
Goad says if the age of the victim is as expected, it would only be the second time he has worked with the skeletal remains of a juvenile. The first was that ofa child whose remains were found off I-85in Orange County in September.
Investigators eventually ran out of possible matches for that case and sent the skull to Washington for facial reconstruction. However, that outcome is not deterring Goad from trying to solve this mystery.
"If the information is in our database and the contact we make with the reporting law enforcement agency is accurate, I'm optimistic we can marry the two bits of information to find the person we're looking for," Goad said.
While authorities do believe the case was a homicide, they still do not know a cause of death. They say the body was too badly decomposed, and finding a cause of death may take awhile. It may also take time to pin down the identity.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Wake County Sheriff's Department.