By Joe Beck
The Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office, with help from an anthropologist and the state medical examiner, has cracked the mystery of a skull found by some four-wheel riders in a wooded area south of Edinburg in early November.
Maj. Scott Proctor said Wednesday that the Sheriff's Office has concluded that the skull came from the remains of Isaac R. Hite, who was buried in a nearby family cemetery until somebody or something disturbed the grave site.
"It does appear he died of natural causes," Proctor said of Hite, who lived from 1809 to 1891.
Proctor said Shenandoah County authorities enlisted the medical examiner's office and an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution in determining the origins of the skull, which was found by two ATV riders between the 1500 and 1600 block of Barbershop Road near Stony Creek Road.
The medical examiner and the anthropologist matched the skull with the remains of Isaac Hite that were found in an above ground crypt, Proctor said.
"They were able to confirm this skull came from the burial plot in the general vicinity of where the skull was located," Proctor said of the medical examiner and anthropologist.
Proctor said no decisions have been made about what will be done with Hite's remains now that the investigation has been concluded. Procotor said the medical examiner and anthropologist are still in control of the remains.
Proctor said he believed that Hite has some family descendents living in the area, but was unsure of who they are.
Proctor described the skull found by the four-wheel riders as appearing "to have some age to it, and it had been exposed to the elements for a while."
The skull was found about 100 yards from the family cemetery that still holds several graves, the majority of which are probably resting places for Hite family members, Proctor said.
Proctor said authorities do not know how the skull was separated from the rest of Hite's remains.
Vandals or wild animals may have disturbed the crypt that held the remains for more than a century.
"It was an above ground crypt," Proctor said. "It had sustained damage. You could see the rest of the remains."
Proctor added that authorities found information at the county library "indicating that the cemetery had been vandalized several times in recent years."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org