Police said today the human remains found this week during a search for Susan Cox Powell were put in their shallow grave fairly recently and are not those of a Native American or pioneer.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management anthropologist Joelle McCarthy determined the remains were not historic, West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt said.
Federal agencies are required by law to return Native American remains to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes.
Merritt said the remains, discovered Wednesday on federal land northwest of Delta, Utah, appear to be “fairly recent” and the soil showed signs of a recent disturbance.
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Even so, there’s no further indication they are Powell. Merritt did not know the gender of the remains or offer other information about how intact the remains are.
Merritt said earlier Thursday that if the remains were found not to be Native American or a determination could not be made, a state medical examiner would travel from Salt Lake City to excavate the remains.
Cadaver dogs found the remains Wednesday in a remote area about 30 miles away from where Powell’s husband, Josh, the only person of interest named in her disappearance, has said he took his two young sons camping the night his wife disappeared from their West Valley City home.
Police have said Josh Powell liked to gem hunt — and family and friends have confirmed Josh and Susan Powell visited the area on previous family excursions.
To help determine the age of the remains, McCarthy first examined the surface and top soil.
“There’s things we can tell from the soil,” she said. “If the soil’s compact, (the grave) is probably older. If it’s looser, it’s more recent.”
McCarthy said she also would look for signs of Indian artifacts.
Meanwhile Thursday, police on all-terrain vehicles and cadaver dogs and handlers continued combing the area — their fourth day of searching for anything related to Susan Powell’s disappearance.
In an e-mail Thursday, Josh Powell issued a statement through his sister Alina Powell, asking police to reveal more information.
“With very little information available to the public, we can only hope that additional information is released quickly to minimize heartache to those of us who love Susan,” the statement reads. “In the meantime, we continue to hope for Susan’s safe return.”
Susan Powell’s father, Chuck Cox of Puyallup, flew to Salt Lake City on Thursday and polices were going to bring him to the search site, West Valley City Police Chief Buzz Nielsen said.
“He needs to come out here and see what we’re doing,” Nielsen said. “We keep him briefed.”
Last month, police searched several mines around Ely, Nev., and later came to Puyallup to search the home where Josh Powell now lives with his father, Steve Powell. Investigators seized computer towers and several boxes of possible evidence.
Powell, 28, disappeared Dec. 6, 2009, and was reported missing the next day after she failed to show up to work.
Her 35-year-old husband has said he took his then 2 and 4-year-old sons on a late-night camping trip to Simpson Springs in Tooele County and returned to find his wife gone.