Mystery skeleton found in basement of Longmont VFW examined by coroner, but few questions answered

LONGMONT, Colo. - A skeleton kept in the basement of the Longmont VFW for years belonged to a man in his 30's, the county coroner reports.

The bones were first reported by the VFW last fall after September's floods destroyed the coffin holding them. After several days, the coffin started to smell and that is when the VFW called Boulder County Coroner.

"It’s definitely very different for us. We get all kinds of bizarre calls and especially when this one came in, we had no idea what we’d be going out on," Coroner Emma Hall said. "The fact there was an odor associated with it. I thought we might really be in for a real mystery."

Members of the VFW told 7NEWS the bones have been there for years. They were used as part of a veteran's ritual called the "Last Man's Club" to honor veterans before them.

Quartermaster Jim Mauck said there are several stories about who the bones belong to including it was a Native American woman.

When the coroner collected the bones, they were required to report them to the state archeology office because of the belief they were Native American. Hall said the group visited the office and measured the bones, determining they were not Native American.

Hall then contacted Metro State University's Human Identification Lab. With the help of an physical anthropologist, they spent weeks examining and measuring the skeletal remains.

"They usually are going to look at different measurements on the skull and then also of the pubic area to determine the age....We have sutures in our skull, and they’re going to look at those....For sex, they can also look at the head of the femur," Hall said.  "It’s not an exact science, like a math problem where you get an absolute answer. It’s more of a probability and a statistical analysis."

From several measurements taken of the skull, pubic area and the head of the femur, they were able to discover the bones belonged to a Caucasian man, roughly 32 years old. Hall said they also believe the bones have an archeological value; they are believed to be more than 50 years old.

Last year, the Boulder County Coroner's Office solved one of its three John Doe cases. Hall said she always hopes to find an answer but believes they have learned all they came from the bones.

Originally, the VFW had asked to have the bones returned and cremated. However, the Boulder County Coroner is still working with state agencies to decide where the bones will be sent. Hall said she would like to keep them at the coroner's office to use for training.