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Sterling Heights

November 5, 2012

DNA results indicate body parts found in sewer belonged to female

By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer

STERLING HEIGHTS -- Sterling Heights police received a few more pieces of the puzzle in an ongoing mystery, after DNA testing indicated human remains found in a sewer in August belonged to a female.

The news came from the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification – Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics, where police sent the body parts in September in hopes of gaining more clues to the victim’s identity.

Lt. Luke Riley of the Sterling Heights Police Department said the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office also has determined that the victim was white, but the person’s identity remains unknown.

“Based on the body parts, the medical examiner (said) it appears to be a person with a large build, a white person with a large build,” he said. “Now we know it’s a female with a large build.”

In a prepared statement announcing the latest development, police indicated the DNA results “will be entered in State and Federal DNA Index System, where they will be periodically checked for possible identification.”

Two workers from Inland Waters Pollution Control, a county contractor repairing a segment of the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor in Sterling Heights, discovered the remains Aug. 15. The nearly one-dozen non-skeletal body parts were found on a grate about 50 feet below street level near 15 Mile and Maple Lane.

In the weeks that followed, police received a plethora of tips but still were unable to identify the source of the remains.

The remains’ distinguishing feature is a partial tattoo, which police hope will be the key to eventually finding the victim. Tattoo experts who evaluated the large, elaborate marking determined that it was probably about 15 years old, based on brightness and degree of detail, though it was unclear exactly what it depicted, Riley said previously.

The victim’s identity and how she came to meet her fate isn’t the only mystery; how the remains ended up in the interceptor is equally boggling.

Hundreds of sanitary lines from two dozen communities tie into nine larger sewer lines, called in-flows, which then connect to the interceptor. The interceptor transports water to Detroit for treatment, serving 833,000 customers in Macomb and Oakland counties.

Macomb County Deputy Public Works Commissioner Gene Schabath previously estimated that about 30,000 manholes lead to the lateral sewers, which run through various commercial and residential areas and span thousands of miles.

Any of those manholes, theoretically, could have been used to deposit body parts into the system, he said, though the manholes are bolted to the pavement. The one located directly above the discovery site sported a 400-pound cement lid that had to be lifted daily via crane to permit workers access.

Police continue to seek tips in the case. Anyone with information should call (586) 446-2800 or (586) 446-2825.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cortney Casey at ccasey@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.