Partial skull lost by local law enforcement has now been found
The partial skull of an unidentified person that had been lost by law enforcement for several years has now been found and authorities are investigating how it could be linked to the unsolved abduction and murder of two Pocatello girls.
Oneida County Sheriff Arne Jones confirmed to the Journal this week that the lost partial skull first discovered by hunters in October 1986 in the Trail Hollow area of Oneida County has been located and is now undergoing analysis by the FBI.
“We are just hoping to get some more information about the remains to give us a direction of where to go or look next,” Jones said.
He would not speculate on how long it will take the FBI to complete its analysis of the partial skull.
Jones confirmed the partial skull was missing for several years but he would not identify the local law enforcement agency found to be in possession of the partial skull or explain how it was located. Jones did confirm that the skull submitted to the FBI is the one that went missing while in the possession of local law enforcement.
The identity of the person this partial skull belongs to remains a mystery, though several forensic and cold case experts have developed unverified theories over the years. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, the gender, race, height and weight of the person the skull belongs to remain unknown.
What is known about the partial skull is that it was originally found near the remains of missing Pocatello girls Tina Anderson, 12, and Patricia Campbell, 15, who were located in the Trail Hollow area five years before.
The remains of Campbell and Anderson were found by hunters in October 1981 after the two girls were reported missing from a Pioneer Day celebration at Alameda Park in Pocatello on July 22, 1978.
Authorities have speculated that the partial skull could belong to a person who was abducted and murdered along with Campbell and Anderson.
“The two girls out of Pocatello were positively identified by dental records and DNA analysis,” Jones said. “But the third one that we have partial remains for has not been identified.”
Several law enforcement agencies handled the partial skull over the years in an attempt to glean information about it but were unsuccessful, Jones added.
“There was a lot of speculation but nothing ever came back positive,” he said.
In addition to the skull going missing, some of Campbell’s remains as well as .22-caliber bullet casings originally found in October 1981 where the remains of Campbell and Anderson were discovered also vanished from law enforcement evidence lockers. Jones would not comment on whether Campbell’s remains and the shell casings were located when the partial skull was found.
“It was missing for several years after it was passed around for different people to evaluate it,” Jones said about the partial skull. “Over time, it was lost and forgotten.”
In the fall of 2006, former Oneida County Sheriff Jeff Semrad announced the creation of a cold case task force to investigate the murders of Anderson and Campbell. The task force included the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement agencies from Bannock and Bingham counties.
Semrad told the Journal in December 2008 that it was unclear what happened to the missing evidence, including the partial skull.
When Semrad made these comments in 2008 it was less than a year removed from him hosting a press conference near the site where the partial skull and the remains of Campbell and Anderson were found. Semrad said during the press conference that he had suspects linked to the disappearances of Anderson, Campbell and whoever the partial skull belonged to, who at the time was thought to be a third girl whose identity was not known.
A forensic pathologist at Idaho State University, David Fortsch, who is now deceased, examined the partial skull in 2006. He told the Journal in 2006 that “based on the physical configuration, ratios and proportions of the measurements,” he believed the skull belonged to a black girl in her late teens.
Semrad said he planned to convene a grand jury by the end of the summer of 2007 to begin criminal proceedings against the suspects in the case, but that never happened. The identities of those suspects were never revealed by law enforcement.
One local cold case expert has been trying to solve the case for years. Crystal Douglas operates East Idaho Cold Cases Inc., an Idaho Falls-based nonprofit group aimed at investigating unsolved crimes and disappearances.
Though Fortsch claimed the skull belonged to a black teenager, Douglas spent some time with the Campbell and Anderson families this past June to try and uncover any new information that would indicate who the unidentified person could be.
During those discussions, Douglas said she learned that a Hispanic father from American Falls was also looking for his missing teenage daughter on July 22, 1978, on the streets surrounding Alameda Park.
But Douglas said she has been unable to confirm the identities of the father or his missing daughter and cannot locate police reports from the time that might mention a missing Hispanic girl.
Douglas wonders if the partial skull is all that’s left of the Hispanic girl, who could have been with Campbell and Anderson when they were abducted and murdered.
The Hispanic girl and her father could have been migrant farm workers and that could explain why her disappearance was never reported to law enforcement, Douglas speculated.
Douglas hopes that the FBI analysis of the skull will help confirm her theory.
Jones also remains hopeful that advances in technology will shed light on who this partial skull belongs to.
But until he knows for sure, Jones said he has no plans to further speculate.
“We’re hoping that with the advancement of technology they will be able to confirm information we need to proceed,” Jones said. “If we get something and it’s concrete we will let people know.”