Dylan Redwine case: Scientific testing key to identifying human remains

DENVER - When a human remains are discovered in suspicious circumstances, like the Dylan Redwine case, scientific methods and testing are often critical in identifying the body parts.

As a forensic anthropologist, Dr. Catherine Gaither studies bones to help determine someone's identity and how they died.

"I'm going to look for any evidence of trauma that may have been on the bones," said the Metropolitan State University of Denver professor.

Redwine disappeared during a court-ordered Thanksgiving visit with his father. A portion of his remains were found during a five-day search this week of Middle Mountain Road, less than 10 miles from his father's home.

"They've only found 2 percent or approximately 2 percent of his remains. That means there's still 98 percent of my son still strewn around the countryside somewhere," said Mark Redwine in an interview with 7NEWS.

- See a history of the search for Dylan Redwine in photos: http://ch7ne.ws/11QFGQg

While Gaither can't speak specifically about the Dylan Redwine case or the direction of the investigation, she explains in general terms that a full skeleton is not required to make an identification.

"It really depends on which parts of the skeleton you do have," she said.

Critical parts include someone's skull and teeth.

"In non-adults, the formation of the tooth, the crown, the roots and their eruption, can help you to estimate age," she said.

"If somebody was shot, you can see marks on the bones from the projectile passing through the bone. You could see if someone was beaten, blunt force trauma, we can see that on the bones," she said.

Gaither stresses, her conclusions are based strictly from science - because in court, there's no room for "What if?"

"I'm often also doing statistical quantitative analysis in order to make sure I'm correct in what I'm saying, so it's science all the way," she said.

The Redwine case is being treated as a homicide investigation, meaning the sheriff's office is looking for a killer.

"This is an active homicide investigation," La Plata County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dan Bender told 7NEWS.

"The information we have is there is no reason for Dylan to go to Middle Mountain and there is no indication he did it on his own," Bender said.

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