Police are investigating human remains found just south of the …
Updated: Tuesday, 15 Dec 2009, 11:20 AM EST
Published : Tuesday, 27 Oct 2009, 11:45 AM EDT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Human remains found last spring near the Wabash River have been identified.
The West Lafayette Police Department and the Tippecanoe County coroner said the remains have been identified as John Chandler, a 56-year-old homeless man. Chandler's last known residence was in Wheatfield, Indiana.
A human skull was found by mushroom hunters in April just south of the West Lafayette waste water treatment plant.
The coroner and police worked with a forensic anthropolgy team from Indianapolis to help identify the remains.
Tippecanoe County Coroner Martin Avolt said an ID and a library card found in a backpack helped with the process of identifying 56-year old John Chandler.
Another important piece of evidence found was a dental plate.
"You could not get a lot of information from it initially, but when you looked at it under a microscope, you could see four letters. That was a partial name. We got C,H, A, N off of it," said Avolt.
The dental plate was an exact fit with the skull found in the
Avolt said when the anthropologist pieced the skeleton together, he noticed an abnormality.
"A couple of ribs showed some arthritic changes and they also still had some attachment to the vertebrae. That's not unusual for a person of this age. Knowing that, we went to St E hospital and pulled out an old medical record. We found a case file. We found an x-ray of this gentleman's back. We sent it to the anthropologist in Indianapolis and he was able to pull out some films there that actually matched the vertebrae and ribs we had recovered from the scene," said Avolt.
This allowed the group to be certain of their identification.
Police said it is possible that Chandler had died over a year before his body was located. The last time the West Lafayette Police Department had contact with Chandler was in April of 2007, while the remains were found in April of 2009.
"We don't know how this individual died," said Avolt. "We don't know when he died. But we have a feeling that he died at least a summer before we found him."
Avolt said there is no evidence of criminal activity.
"But soft tissues injures could have led to that. We just don't know," he added.
Avolt said the family knew early on that it was possible the remains belonged to Chandler.
"We told them we were satisfied in our own minds we knew who we were dealing with, but we have to go through the processes to determine and prove who this is."
Investigators say while this does solve one case, it provides no answers in the December 2008 disappearance of Steve Lee Smith.
Police said Smith's roomate, Wesley Kelly, admitted to arguing with Smith on the railroad bridge above the Wabash River. Kelly told police he hit Smith causing him to fall into the river.
Neither Smith nor his body has been found.