Somewhere, there's a homicide left unprosecuted. There might also be family that doesn't know it should be grieving.
Those two statements represent some of the only known details among a vast number of unknowns in the case of a John Doe whose remains were found near West Manchester Mall last Nov. 18.
York County Coroner Pam Gay and investigators from West Manchester Township Police Department announced Thursday that the bones found by tree trimmers just off Loucks Road were that of an unknown homicide victim.
A study of the bones and skull by forensic anthropologist Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat of Mercyhurst University in Erie showed signs of trauma pointing to murder, but Det. Jeffrey Snell declined to say how investigators believe the man was killed.
Snell also declined to say whether a weapon was found at the site, an area of dense foliage near the intersections of Route 74 and Haviland Road in the township. It's unknown whether the man died there or was killed elsewhere and dropped in the wooded area.
Snell said searches of the area uncovered "items of interest," but he declined to identify them or why they're relevant. Investigators need to limit the amount of information released to preserve the credibility of any future witness statements, he said.
Police released a rendering of the man's face based on a scientific reconstruction using his skull, and they urged anyone with information to call police.
The unknown: Snell said police have exhausted John Doe's comparison with the list of known missing persons from York County.
While some adults go missing and are never reported as such, investigators believe the man could be a transient who was in the York area for an event such as the York Fair. There are highways and hotels near the site, he said.
The remains are a potential match to missing persons from multiple states, and the investigation is currently focused on cold cases from east of the Mississippi River, Snell said.
A DNA profile of the man is expected to be complete by about May 4, said Det.
What they know: The scientific analysis showed the man is not of African American descent, and he was between 30 to 50 years old and between 5-feet-5 to 5-feet-10 feet tall, Snell said. The bones had been at the site between three and 10 years, he said.
A partial upper dental plate was found with the remains, and a dental profile entered into a national database has not found a match, he said.
Snell said the case has been frustrating to investigators, who can't find homicide suspects until they know the identity of the victim.
"Somebody out there knows what happened," he said.
Gay said she's hoping someone recognizes the face in the sketch and calls police.
After the tree trimming crew discovered the skull, crews were able to recover between 85 percent and 90 percent of the skeleton, said Barry Bloss, who was coroner at the time.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.