SALT LAKE CITY – Police said Thursday that 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 an American Indian or a pioneer.
“This is not going to be an ancient burial site,” West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt said. “It’s not going to be a cowboy from the West.”
U.S. Bureau of Land Management anthropologist Joelle McCarthy determined that the remains were not historic, Merritt said. Federal agencies are required by law to return American Indian remains to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes.
Soil at the site on federal land northwest of Delta, Utah, showed signs of a recent disturbance indicating remains would be less than 10 years old, Merritt said.
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Before stopping Thursday evening, investigators had dug an area about 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep at the site but did not discover any bones.
The excavation and additional police searches of the area were set to resume this morning. The dig will continue as long as the cadaver dogs – able to detect remains buried as much as 12 feet deep – are indicating, Merritt said.
The dogs dig up the dirt and smell it, but aren’t interested in the dirt but what they sense underneath the dirt. That could mean anything from a little blood to bones to flesh, Merritt said.
The human remains would not have been easily spotted by a person hiking through the area, and the only real reason they were found is because of the cadaver dogs, Merritt said.
McCarthy, the anthropologist, told police there appeared to be a “disturbance” around the area where the remains were found that was caused by humans and not animals.
The 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.
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 email 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 police were going to bring him to the search site today, 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.
Susan 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.