“Can you get me the Lady of Bones?” “| Way of life






Mary Manhein founded and ran the FACES lab, helping law enforcement find missing people and human remains. Photo credit: courtesy of LSU




Since the 1980s, law enforcement agencies across Louisiana have called LSU to help them identify human remains and locate missing people. This has earned Mary Manhein the reputation of “the lady of bones”.

In view of this interest, Manhein formed the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Improvement Services Laboratory at LSU in 1990 to help police departments and coroner’s offices identify missing persons and human remains.

With cases ranging from mummies to murder victims, the FACES lab provides invaluable statewide services using bone, DNA, and other forensic methods to identify missing persons.






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The Central Sabine Fire Department Confined Space Entry Team assisted in retrieving additional remains in the “Man in the Well” case. Photo credit: Courtesy of the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office


FACES made headlines again in October when officials at Sabine Parish, building on previous lab work to identify a dead man in a well, were able to recover more of the body and make an arrest. for a murder they claim took place in 1984.

“They were a huge help at all levels,” said Detective Chris Abraham of Sabine Parish, who worked with the lab’s experts on the case. “If they hadn’t brought the missing person’s case to our attention, we would never have put two and two together. “

By securing funding from the state and LSU, Manhein, now 77, helped the lab build a national reputation in forensic pathology. She also created the LA Repository for Unidentified and Missing Persons Information Program, the most comprehensive database of its kind statewide.

Manhein retired from the lab in 2015, and Dr Ginesse Listi, who had worked with Manhein for years, took over and continued the work.

The repository lists 600 cases of missing persons in Louisiana. Experts estimate that 40,000 unidentified bodies lie in mortuaries across the country.

“My heart has turned to the missing persons cases,” Manhein said. “It’s a great feeling to know that you’re helping solve families’s problems, but it’s not really closing. I give back to families, which I have always wanted to do.

Manhein has written several books on his work as a forensic anthropologist with titles like “The Bone Lady”, “Trail of Bones” and “Bone Remains”.

Retired, she also wrote her first young adult novel titled “Claire Carter: The Mystery of the Bones in the Drain Pipe”, about a young girl who works with a forensic anthropologist to solve mysteries.

Forensic anthropologists at the FACES laboratory are trained to handle many types of cases. Whether remains are found within days or decades, the lab can still resolve cases. It all depends on the condition of the bones.

Sabine Parish’s investigation has been dubbed the “Man at the Well” case.

The victim, Lester Rome, went missing in 1984. Two years later, an owner found the skeletal remains of a man there in his water well.

The FACES lab examined the almost 30-year-old remains in 2013 and made a possible connection to Rome. Shotgun pellets embedded in his pelvic region years before his disappearance helped the lab make that connection.

Sabine Parish law enforcement recovered further remains from the well in October, allowing the coroner to officially identify the remains as Rome. Shortly after, the US Marshals arrested a 74-year-old man from Mississippi for second degree murder.

The FACES lab inspects skeletal remains to determine the victim’s age, race, size, cause of death, and time since death. Using bones and x-rays, the lab can also build clay models and create computer renderings of what the victim looked like.

Listi, the current lab director, said the rate of decomposition varies with heat, humidity and soil types, and minerals can leak out of bones over time, sometimes leaving only a person’s teeth. She added that her team can take DNA samples from bones and teeth if there is no soft tissue left.

Two skeletons were found in the sunken ruins of the USS Monitor, a Civil War ship that sank in 1862. Because they were so well preserved, the FACES lab created a clay model of what their faces could look like.

Each set of bones tells a story. The lab studies the skeletons to identify trauma that may have occurred just before death or years earlier. In some cases, anthropologists have even been able to study the teeth to determine if victims exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, or even smoke.

In 2010, the FACES lab determined that a skull found in Clayton, Louisiana was not that of Joseph Edwards, a young black man whom the FBI suspects was murdered in 1964 by the Ku sheriff’s deputies. Klux Klan and Concordia Parish.

Edwards remains one of many unsolved cases in the repository, and Manhein said she is still haunted by it.

“It bothered me that someone could kill themselves in the same year as the Civil Rights Act,” Manhein said. “Justice has been denied and delayed.

The FACES laboratory is not satisfied with work on missing persons in Louisiana. In 2001, he examined the remains of a small child found in Kansas City, Missouri. The case gained national attention and the remains were dubbed “Precious Doe”.

Manhein determined the sex and age of the child and created a clay model of the child’s face.

The child was finally identified in 2005 after his grandfather saw an ad in the newspaper with the sketch of the clay model and alerted law enforcement that he believed it was a granddaughter he hadn’t seen in years.

Using DNA, police confirmed Precious Doe’s identity as Erica Green. His mother and stepfather were later convicted of his murder.

The FACES Lab has also solved historical mysteries. The Louisiana Arts & Sciences Museum and the laboratory worked together on mummified remains from the bank of the Nile in Egypt from 300 BC.

Originally nicknamed “The Princess of Thebes”, the remains were believed to be a mummified priestess.

After months of research, the lab concluded that the 2,300-year-old princess mummy was in fact a prince.

The lab was also able to use her teeth to give the first estimate of the age of the mummy, who died in her late twenties and early thirties. Using the x-rays of the skull and the samples, the lab created a picture of what the mummy would have looked like in her lifetime.

The lab also found that internal organs and the brain were left behind in the mummy, which was not standard mummification practice at the time. Since then, historians have used the lab’s findings to investigate why it was one of the only mummies buried this way.

“The work of the FACES lab is very important,” said Elizabeth Weinstein, former curator of the Louisiana Arts and Sciences Museum. “They provided us with a very valuable service and did so in a very professional and ethical manner, which was important to everyone at the museum.”


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