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Human remains found in burned cabin inside city
Posted 10/4/00

By ERIC FREEMAN
Mille Lacs County Times

The charred remains of an unidentified human were discovered Sunday afternoon in the burned rubble of a small cabin on the property of Norris and Trudy Johnson of Milaca.
"We found the cabin burned on Labor Day weekend," said Norris Johnson, whose property is located on the southeast side of Milaca.
Johnson, a Milaca City Council member, discovered the remains while riding his horse in the wooded trails on the south side of his property near the destroyed cabin.
The remains consist of a human pelvis connected and intact with the spine and tail bone. Fragments of two ribs and a short leg bone (femur) fragment are connected to the right side of the remains.
Authorities were called and the initial examination of the scene was conducted by Tom Boser of the Milaca Police Department, Kay Keimig, Mille Lacs County Health Nurse and Mille Lacs County Deputy Don Stob.
The scene was photographed and the three examined the remains, trying to determine if they were human. After about 30 minutes at the scene the three decided to call the county coroner to verify that the remains were indeed human.
"Yes, they look human," said Keimig. "Letís back out and call the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension)."
By Sunday evening the assistant county coroner had verified that the remains are human and the search for evidence was set in motion.
Early Monday morning the scene was secured with yellow crime tape and officials from various agencies arrived to begin the work of gathering evidence.
On the scene Monday morning was a team from the BCA, Mille Lacs County Coroner Janis Amatuzio, State Fire Marshall Mark Germain, Milaca Police Chief Mike Mott, Boser, Keimig and several others.
The morning was spent surveying the area, the forensic team stepping very carefully in and around the ashes so as not to disturb any evidence. The scene was filmed and photographed again.
"Weíll treat this like itís human and then call the anthropologist in to see it," said Amatuzio early in the work.
According to Germain the cause of the cabin fire is still undetermined.
"Due to the amount of structure loss the cause of the fire is still undetermined," he said. "The normal damage we look at to help determine the cause is just not present here."
Germain is finished with the fire scene investigation but his file on it will remain open until the investigation as a whole is finished.
"This is not the normal day-to-day forensic work-up," said Nat Pearlson, forensic scientist and nine year veteran of the BCA. "The fire makes this different, we donít have an intact body to identify and the scene is really very small and contained, unlike discovering a homicide in a house where almost anything could lead to answers."
The work was detailed and tedious as the team marked and photographed each piece of readily visible evidence while it was still in place.
When the preliminary work was done the teams began to sift the ashes and carefully scrape through to the soil level.
By the end of the day the team had gathered five quart-size containers of bone fragments, the large pelvic remains, and an assortment of items including blue jean rivets, buttons, fabric scraps, a buckle possibly from a belt or a backpack and other items.
At this early stage of the investigation police were unable to say whether any of the items discovered would bring a positive identity to the remains.
"The remains will be sent to the lab to try to determine the age and sex of the victim," said Boser. "At this time there is no way to know what happened."


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