New discoveries spur skull investigation

New findings that a skull discovered almost five years ago in the George Washington National Forest had been exposed to the elements for no more than five years and that it contained a tooth with what appeared to be modern dental fillings have led to the FBI joining the investigation.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Tuesday that the new information came from a Smithsonian Institute anthropologist who has re-examined the skull since its initial discovery almost five years ago.

Maj. Scott Proctor of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office said in an interview that authorities still don’t know the cause or manner of death, but the anthropologist was able to determine that the skull came from a man who was 30 to 45 years old at the time of death and a descendent of white Europeans.

Proctor said FBI forensic experts at Quantico are now trying to learn about what the man’s face may have looked like.

“We’re looking at the possibility of facial reconstruction or at least forensic redrawing or artistry depicting the facial features of the skull,” Proctor said, adding, “The FBI forensic lab in Quantico is assisting with that.”

The skull was discovered in April 2010 by turkey hunters in the George Washington National Forest on the northern edge of Fort Valley.

Proctor said the case has remained open since then as authorities have tried to identify the skull and the cause and manner of death. Proctor said there were no signs of trauma during examinations of the skull.

The length of the time the skull has been exposed to the weather does not necessarily indicate how long ago the person died.

Proctor said he hoped the FBI’s efforts to put a human face on the skull will help someone identify it after the work is completed and released to the public. Proctor said unknown family members or friends of a missing person may gain some “closure” after the skull is identified.

“It’s the right thing to do, and we’re going to make every effort to identify this person’s remains,” Proctor said.

Anyone who may have information about the case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 459-6100.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com