Volume 38, Issue 6 (November 1993)
Identification of the Fragmentary, Burned Remains of Two U.S. Journalists Seven Years After Their Disappearance in Guatemala
The contribution of a physical anthropologist to a forensic investigation is generally associated with analysis of skeletal remains in a laboratory. This case, which deals with the identification of two U.S. journalists who disappeared in Guatemala in March 1985, shows that the observations of a physical anthropologist in the field—at the site where the skeletal remains are located—can be essential to the success of an investigation. In this case, there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the investigators, but the physical anthropologists on the team discovered the deception. Subsequently, when they were taken to the actual cremation site, they obtained bone fragments and teeth that permitted identification of the victims. For one individual, the unusual morphology of the frontal sinus made positive identification possible. Comparison of premortem dental X-rays with teeth found at the site resulted in positive identification of the second individual.