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Investigators face mystery of man's identity

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The FBI has reconstructed the face of an unknown man whose body was found in Cana last year.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

ROANOKE — The chances of identifying the remains of an unknown subject found near Timber Road in Cana on April 1, 2012, hover around 10 percent, the assistant chief medical examiner for Virginia’s Western District said at a press conference Wednesday.
The remains were found by a person picking up trash along the road.
The investigation did not uncover the subject’s identity, so the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office sent the remains to the medical examiner’s office for help.
In turn, the medical examiner’s office turned the skull over to forensic anthropologists and artists with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Anthropology Services and Imaging Unit to reconstruct what the man looked like while alive.

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After unveiling busts reconstructed from the Carroll case and three other cases from the Southwest Virginia region on Wednesday, Dr. Paul Benson, the assistant chief medical examiner, noted that there is about a 9 percent success rate in getting positive identifications after posting case information to the federal National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The online database for unidentified persons has 8,845 open cases nationwide and 849 closed cases, a success rate of about 8.75 percent.
In Virginia, the statistics are slightly better, with 18 cases out of 158 being closed, or more than 11 percent.
Leah Bush, chief medical examiner for Virginia’s Western District, and law enforcement officials sought assistance from the news media to broadcast information about these cases from Carroll, Lee, Pittsylvania and Allegheny counties in order to resolve them.
“We hope that by presenting the facial approximations to the public someone will recognize one of these individuals as his or her long-lost loved one,” Bush said in a press release.
Authorities do not know much more about the body found in Carroll County than what the initial investigation showed months ago.
The remains are of a male of mixed ethnicity (possibly Hispanic), in his mid-20s to mid-30s, who was approximately 5 feet, 7 inches tall, according to information from the Wednesday briefing.
Carroll Sheriff J.B. Gardner and Investigator Donnie Spangler were on hand to provide additional information on the case.
No reports of missing persons have come in to the sheriff’s office and there are no unresolved crimes from Carroll that would include a victim matching this description, Gardner said. Authorities have checked with other localities from Virginia and North Carolina, but they have no reports that match, either.
Gardner, after the press conference, told The Gazette that he has not ruled out any possibilities in the case.
Carroll investigators have considered that the subject might have been a migrant worker, he confirmed at the press conference.
Hopefully, a member of the family will see these reports, find the information on namus.gov and contact Carroll authorities or the medical examiner’s office, Spangler said.
The medical examiner’s office does have a DNA profile for the subject, extracted from one of the bones found, Spangler added. That’s important because forensic scientists can find a positive identification by matching the DNA profile to those shown by blood family members.
The Carroll authorities also discussed sharing information about the items that they recovered with the body, because family members may also recognize some of those things and lead to an identification.
While no identification was found, deputies collected jeans, a Hanes shirt, Sketchers hiking boots and coins from the scene.
“It would be nice to have closure,” Spangler said. “All we can do is hope that it actually helps out.”

• More information about Virginia missing persons cases is available at www.vdh.virginia.gov/medexam/missingperson.htm.