Police: Human remains identification could take days

Published 12:11am Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Harrisonburg, La. — Human remains found in a cornfield near Sicily Island last week were so unidentifiable that it may be days more before a positive identification can take place.

The remains were found after a Monroe woman led Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s deputies, and eventually Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s deputies, to the field north of Sicily Island, where she said a body was buried.

“I don’t think (the remains) had been there a long time, it’s just the condition they were in,” Catahoula Parish Sheriff James Kelly said Monday. “The condition was so bad, they had to take it to their lab to get any information, but that’s all I can say on that.”

Kelly said a visual inspection of the remains couldn’t provide clear clues of the age or gender of person whose remains were in the field. However, a Monroe television station reported that the Ouachita Sheriff’s Office said the remains were of a female.

The remains were taken to forensics experts at Louisiana State University

Mary Manhein, director of LSU’s Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory, said Monday that her team has started working to analyze the human remains, but would only report what they discover directly to law enforcement agencies.

“We’re currently working on it now, but it will take a few days to even begin to see what we have,” Manhein said. “We X-ray everything, sort out what we get from that, and then try to learn what we can about the remains from there.”

Two suspects have been arrested in connection to the case, including the 30-year old Monroe resident Leah Marie Pontiff who initially tipped off police to the remains. She was charged Friday with obstruction of justice.

Daniel White, 36, of Sterlington, La., was in custody at the Ouachita Correctional Center in Monroe on unrelated charges, but was transferred to the Catahoula Parish Jail Saturday and charged with second-degree kidnapping in connection to the case, Kelly said.

The sheriff would not disclose White’s exact connection to the case.

Investigators were also looking into a missing person report filed last week Ouachita Parish believed to be tied to the human remains case, but Kelly said he would not discuss any possible links.

“We have several families who have contacted us regarding a missing person, and we’re considering everything at this point,” Kelly said. “What we have to remember is that we still have a family out there looking for answers.”

Glenn Springfield, public information officer for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, confirmed the missing person report was filed with the OPSO, but would not release any details about the report.

“Right now, it would be premature to release any information on that case,” Springfield said. “We’re going to hold off releasing anything until they’ve analyzed everything.”