CAMP VERDE - On July 18, the Camp Verde Marshal's Office responded to a report of a skull found by three teenagers fishing in the Verde River near the Camp Vere Community Library.
The teens, fishing just north of Black Bridge, found no other skeletal remains, nor any other human remains. And neither did the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) dive team, which spent a few hours the morning of July 20 in the river, as they aided the CVMO and Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority investigation.
According to Marshal Nancy Gardner, the Marshal's Office will continue to work with the Yavapai County Medical Examiner's Office in Prescott, "where Dr. M. Fiscioni as well as others who specialize in the examination of bones will examine it and have it X-rayed."
Also involved in the investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will keep the Camp Verde Marshal's Office informed. Such information would then be forwarded to the Yavapai County Medical Examiner's Office, Gardner also said.
"The goal is to identify the skull and put closure to the family members of the deceased," Gardner also said.
How and what is done to find out who the skull belongs to?
According to Marshal Gardner, this will be the role of the Yavapai County Medical Examiner's Office or the University of Texas, the place where the skull will be sent.
"This will be done through DNA and dental records," Gardner said. "The state holds a data bank where the DNA can be compared to that of missing persons and unsolved homicide cases."
How long does this take?
"The hope is that DNA or dental records is able to be matched with a victim and if that is the case it could be relatively quickly," Gardner said. "Unfortunately, the answer to this question is that 'it depends,' and could be as long as a year or more."
What are the odds the skull can be identified?
Marshal Gardner said she is "very confident" that the skull will be identified.
"Forensic science has come a long way, and it is amazing what can be determined," Gardner said. "The only way that the skull would not be able to be identified would be if the person was never reported missing or reported as a victim."
Last week when the dive team searched the Verde River at Black Bridge, the Marshal's Office said that it would also investigate the skull's possible connection to any missing persons or previous homicides, such as the June 2013 death and dismemberment of Dwayne Beauty.
Cross-checking prior crimes is a matter of doing one's due diligence, not guesswork, Marshal Gardner said.
"The detective side comes out in me on occasion," she said. "There are some similarities in the Beauty murder and the skull that was found. However, I am not a forensic examiner, so we need to be patient and let the experts do their job."
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and on Facebook at @CampVerdeBugle