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Possible Human Bones Found

Behind Harvest Market


By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, Sept. 21, 2011

FORT FAIRFIELD—On Tuesday, September 12, Tanya Rasmussen discovered what appeared to be human bones wrapped in an old inner tube and sheet of plastic on the ATV trail behind Harvest Market.

“I often take this trail to walk along the river and go swimming,” said Rasmussen. “I had never noticed the bones before but I suspect the heavy rains we’ve been getting lately washed enough dirt away to bring them to the surface.”

Fort Fairfield police were called, but did not immediately respond. “They told me it was probably a moose or other dead animal.”

Not convinced of the possible explanation, Rasmussen took the bones to Aaron Giberson, owner of Giberson-Dorsey funeral home for a second opinion.

“Tanya and her friends approached me unexpectedly on Monday evening with a shopping bag full of bones,” said Giberson. “I looked them over and noticed there were a considerable amount of animal bones in the collection, but there were a few that I couldn’t say absolutely were not human, so I called Chief Campbell and told him he better come pick them up.”

What appeared to be part of a human hip bone, femur and a deteriorated leg brace were among the initial collection obtained from the site. Due to their apparent age, the bones were in a great degree of deterioration—almost resembling coal slag.

“An animal bone will age differently than a human bone,” explained Giberson. “Due to the density and increased amounts of calcium in an animal bone, they will generally tend to stay white and hard. A human bone, however, is less dense than an animal bone and has less calcium content. If it has not been embalmed or preserved, a human bone will deteriorate to colors ranging from black to reddish brown to amber color.”

The alleged bones were of a dark reddish brown and black color.

“I cannot say they were human bones for sure, but I’m not comfortable saying they aren’t, either,” said Giberson. “What is needed is a detailed forensics study by someone trained in positively identifying human bones.”

Fort Fairfield police respond to two or three bone remnant complaints a year, all of which turn out to be animal bones. Approximately thirty years ago when Harvest Market was operated as Hedrich’s market, there was meat cutting going on there and many of the cow and pig bones from that time can be found over the bank where the ATV trail is now.

“A cow bone is going to be easily identified by its extreme density, white color and obvious blunt ends where they were cut by a meat saw,” explained Giberson. However, some of the bones Tanya found did not fit that description.

While the Fort Fairfield police did retrieve the bones from Giberson, they did not subsequently investigate the area where they were found. On Tuesday afternoon, Rasmussen and her friends, Branden Brewer and Michelle Jackson volunteered to continue excavating the area, finding smaller remnants of what appeared to be more human remains. Most of the bones were broken into little pieces, likely due to a decade of ATV traffic directly on top of them. “If these are human bones, I want to find out who it was so we can give them back to their family,” said Rasmussen.

“On two different occasions since last Friday, we have been given some bones. The first was a single bone found by some children and the second set of bones were found by an adult,” said FFPD Chief Bill Campbell. “In both cases, the bones were photographed and those images were sent to the Medical Examiners Office in Augusta; more specifically, their anthropologist. The findings have been that the bones are not human but animal. However in the interest of putting this to rest, our plan is to get the bones to the anthropologist so they can actually see them and verify the findings. I have no time line to give other than we will be getting them there within the next few days and I suspect that when they look at them they will again tell us that these are animal bones.”


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