Discovery Context of Skeletal Remains Received at the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory

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Angi M. Christensen
James T. Pokines


Cases received for anthropological examination by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory for a 4-year period (2013–2017) were reviewed for the context of the discovery of remains. The assessment was compared with a previous similar review of cases received by the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), with particular attention to whether remains were initially discovered through deliberate law enforcement searches or inadvertently discovered by others. Results show that 52.9% of FBI Laboratory anthropology cases were initially discovered by law enforcement, compared to only 3.6% of Massachusetts OCME cases. Reasons for this difference are discussed, as well as other similarities and differences in discovery mode and context for anthropology cases between these two laboratories.

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