BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Erie County Sheriff’s Office is beginning the process of looking through about 1,000 reporting missing persons cases as potential leads in identifying the human remains found in North Collins on Sunday.
"Accidental deaths don't usually end up being buried like this, or natural deaths, so that we would have to assume that this was some type of criminal act, a homicide," said Howard.
Sheriff Tim Howard met with 2 On Your Side’s Erica Brecher Thursday, revealing new details that will be used to narrow down the time period in which the person died and who the person was.
Howard says a Western-style jacket known to have been manufactured in the 70s was found along with the skeletal remains, as well as a pair of jeans. A brass button also recovered suggests the jeans may have been made by Wrangler.
Finally, the boot that led to the initial discovery is described as a modern boot, and is a size 11.
Howard said if that shoe size matches the foot size of any local missing persons in the past 40 years, that it would be promising start to identifying the body.
The Sheriff’s Office is currently looking into forensic labs nationwide that might be most capable of identifying the remains. Sheriff Howard said the remains are so deteriorated, any lab will run into difficulty finding useful DNA, but did suggest that some teeth that were excavated may be the most promising.
"I've been involved in a lot of missing persons cases, but this one, from the start, is probably going to rate as one of the most difficult ones I've ever seen," Sheriff Howard said.
The deterioration of facial structural and pelvic bones required a slight back-track from one original assumption over the weekend. At first, the Sheriff’s Office believed the body to be that of a large male. Now, they say due to deterioration, they cannot confidently determine the body’s gender or race.
Sheriff Howard hopes, if identified, this body could bring closure to a cold case.
"I think you remember more the cases you didn't solve," he said. "The family deserves it and the victims...no one deserves to die that way, so you can't let go of them."