Clues still sought in 2013 cold case

Margarita Cambest
  • Tree trimmers working near the West Manchester Town Center found a human skull in November 2013.
  • Investigators are now confident the case is a homicide. Forensics show the victim spent the decade before his death in Pennsylvania or the southeast.

Investigators are looking for new information in a York County cold case, and a new partnership between state police and a forensic anthropologist from Florida might help.

Back in 2013, tree trimmers working near the West Manchester Town Center found a human skull in a brushy area along Loucks Road between Carlisle Road and Haviland Drive.

Police protected the scene overnight, according to York Dispatch archives. The next day, a team led by a forensic anthropologist from Mercyhurst University in Erie showed up to excavate the site, recovering a substantial amount of the skeleton and distributing a preliminary facial reconstruction through local law enforcement. At the time, forensics showed the victim was a white, Hispanic or Asian male between 30 and 50 years old. He was believed to have been at the site anywhere from three to 10 years.

Three years later, there isn't much more that's known about the man.

At a news conference held at state police headquarters Wednesday, another facial reconstruction image was released, but the victim's identity is still unknown.

West Manchester Township Police Officer Lance Krout, who is leading the York County investigation, said after chemical isotope testing was performed, police are now confident the case is a homicide and that forensics show the victim spent the decade before his death in Pennsylvania or the southeast. He is thought to be between 5-foot-3 and 5-foot-10 and Hispanic or European. Along with the skeletal remains, investigators found an upper denture and size small Knocker underwear.

Facial reconstruction has produced this image of a 2013 York County cold case. The case is thought to be a homicide but the man's identity is still unknown.
West Machester Township police are still looking to close a November 2013 cold case. They hope a forensic anthropologist from Florida can help with new information.

With thousands of unidentified bodies across the United States, state police have brought in University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle with hopes that she can discover and enter new forensic information into national databases to help close some of the nine cases.

This week, through a federal grant administered through the federal Department of Justice, a team exhumed four bodies in Luzerne County. 

“We’ve reached a time where modern science can help us identify those bodies,” said state police investigator Thomas McAndrew, who leads the department’s criminal investigation assessment unit.

Of about 12,000 cold cases entered into the database, only about 650 were solved as a direct result of the entry.

Still, McAndrew said identifying the deceased is a huge first step.

Cold cases can benefit from modern forensic analysis by allowing scientists to reconstruct faces, identify where people lived or spent the majority of their time and enter that information into missing persons databases. Eventually, they hope, a hit in the database will lead to answers.

Anyone with information about the York County case can call West Manchester Township Police at 717-792-9514.

The York County Forensics Team working for a second time at the spot where human remains were found in November 2013. West Manchester Twp. Police said it's not uncommon for investigators to return to a scene to do a second search for evidence.