HIGHLAND MILLS — The plan on Thursday was to exhume the remains of the unknown man found slain in a Tuxedo creek, to take his skull and a femur in an attempt to identify him.
But sometimes these things get complicated.
State police investigators gathered Thursday morning with an excavation crew at the Cemetery of the Highlands, ready for a somber duty: exhuming the remains of the John Doe, found back in 1969, dead of a gunshot wound to the head, and possibly the victim of a mob dump job.
Aided by cemetery officials and staff, the excavation began just after 9 a.m., in the cemetery's L section, in a corner long used for the unidentified, unclaimed or indigent burials, according to JoAnne Sullivan, the cemetery's executive director. Cemetery records showed that the John Doe was interred about six years after he was found, Sullivan said, buried in what's known as a Ziegler burial case. A Ziegler case is made of steel, sealed with screws.
Workers on Thursday dug up the spot where the John Doe was supposed to have been buried, and ... nothing.
After hours of efforts, checking and re-checking cemetery records and maps and consulting with the funeral director and others involved in the interment, police had yet to find the remains Thursday afternoon.
"We're still trying," said Senior Investigator Yan Salomon.
Police plan to try again next week, perhaps using ground-penetrating radar to find the metal box, he said. Another funeral director involved in the original burial who wasn't available Thursday might be able to assist, Salomon said.
Police plan to use the John Doe's skull to do facial reconstruction, in hopes someone will recognize the man. The femur could provide a DNA sample to confirm an identity should a family member come forward.
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