A federal website that tracks missing persons has filed a report that says remains found in Carroll County last year were those of an unknown child.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) — an agency that works with the U.S. Department of Justice — published its report on Jan. 11, confirming that remains were human.
The report has sparked more questions than answers for state and local investigators, who said they did not provide information for the NamUS report. The Gazette contacted NamUS on Monday, but had not received a reply by press time.
According to the report published at namus.gov and shared by the private Virginia Missing group on social media, the partial skeletal remains of an unidentified person were discovered in Carroll County on Sept. 6, 2022.
Investigators with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office reported at the time of discovery that emergency responders received a call from a citizen “believing that they had found human remains” in the Iron Ridge area of the county.
The NamUS report says that, “Skeletal remains of a young child were found in a trash can in a wooded area” of the county.
Sheriff Kevin Kemp said the evidence was sent to the office of the state medical examiner in Roanoke for analysis, and police had released no further information since last September.
The NamUS report cites findings from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for the Western District of Virginia. It classifies the condition of the remains as “not recognizable,” but several physical descriptions were noted.
Medical examiners estimated the skeletal remains to be that of a preadolescent of undetermined gender or ethnicity, estimated to have been 4 to 7 years old.
The report notes that the postmortem interval (PMI) — or time elapsed since death — was estimated to be 5 years.
Evidence collected from the scene also included “remnants of 1- to 2-inch strands of straight hair, indeterminate color,” according to the report, as well as a “gray/blue sleeping bag, white blanket with pink flowers and Winnie the Pooh fragment of orange/pink cloth located near the body.” The online report also includes a photo of the blanket and sleeping bag.
Neither police nor NamUS speculated about who the remains could belong to. Virginia Missing noted in a comment under their post about the report that the child would likely have died around 2017, if the PMI is accurate.
As of press time Monday afternoon, investigators with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that additional DNA results regarding the case are still pending. Investigators are asking anyone with information concerning this case to contact the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office at 276-236-5119.
According to its website, NamUS is a nationwide investigative support database administered through the National Institute of Justice, which seeks to provide forensic services for law enforcement, medical examiners and other investigating agencies, including the FBI.
The organization reports that over 600,000 individuals go missing in the United States every year, and that tens of thousands of individuals remain missing for more than one year — what many agencies consider “cold cases.”
It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year.