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Mercyhurst University works to identify Chautauqua County remains

Twenty-two Mercyhurst University forensic anthropology graduate students assisted authorities Monday to investigate discovered human remains.

CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY, N.Y. — The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office and Mercyhurst University's Forensic Anthropology team are investigating the discovery of two human remains just off a hiking trail on Monday. 

Those remains were taken to Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA for identification and examination. 

Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat is the Chair of the Applied Forensic Sciences Department at Mercyhurst and has been working there for 31 years. During that time he's examined countless remains from across the region.

"We do a lot of cases throughout Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio," said Dr. Dirkmaat.

On Sunday evening, he was contacted by Chautauqua County authorities to confirm the remains found in the woods were in fact human. 

On Monday, he and 22 Mercyhurst University forensic anthropology graduate students responded to the scene along Woleben road in the town of Portland.

Those students worked alongside law enforcement to process and evaluate the scene. 

"We are dealing with the bones, we are dealing with the soft tissue, we are dealing with the artifacts that may be associated with it, the clothing. We consider if remains have been sitting out in the scene a long time, then the clothing will deteriorate, so we have to have some familiarity with how different types of clothing decays," said Dr. Dirkmaat.

The human remains were found 10 yards apart. The initially reported remains are estimated to have been there for decades, the second is estimated to have been there less than a year.

Dr.Dirkmaat told 2 On Your Side about the process to create a biological profile for a person.

"The amount of soft tissue and the condition of the soft tissue will give us a pretty decent estimate of how long the remains have been in that situation," he said. "So we carefully note that and once we do that, X-ray it, take the pictures, then it's the process of removing the soft tissue so we can see all of the bones surfaces to create a biological profile, age, sex, race, and ancestry of the individual."

As far as a time frame for when a positive identification could be made, Dr. Dirkmaat said it depends on what process is used for identification. He said dental records are fairly quick whereas DNA samples take longer.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office is working with different investigating agencies for 3 cases of missing women and has asked them to contact their families.

Deputies have obtained DNA samples from NYS State Police for 28-year-old Patricia Laemmerhirt, who went missing in April of 1976. She lived in Westfield which is less than 10 miles from the trail where remains were found.


Quattrone said they are also focused on the cases of 36-year-old Corrie Anderson and 26-year-old Lori Bova.

Anderson went missing in October of 2008. She was last seen leaving a car dealership in the City of Jamestown and when she didn't show up to pick her son up from school, her family got worried and reported her missing.

Bova was last seen in Lakewood, NY after having dinner with her husband, sister, and brother-in-law. Her husband reported she went for a walk after an argument and never came back.