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State Archaeologist Calls the Case of Discovered Remains in Vernon One of His Most Difficult

Nicholas Bellantoni shared some observations about the West Street Case on Sunday.

As the state archaeologist, Nicholas Bellantoni is often called to a location where skeletal remains are found for say, "something more than 50 years old," like at a Native American burial site or where early Colonial settlers may have been.

But on occasion, he is called to a crime scene where a forensic archaeologist is needed to supervise the removal of bones.

And that was the case this week in Vernon, where remains were found at the old town dump adjacent to 126 and 130 West St.

Bellantoni said he is often called to a crime scene because he can give investigators an idea of just what went on with a visual examination of the remains.

"I know you all watch "Bones" so you know what goes on. But this is real life," he said.

He chose his words carefully, particularly "life."

"Many times the skeletal elements can tell the age, the sex - and the traumas," Bellantoni said. "Everything you do in life affects the skeleton."

He said in some instances, it can be determined how many children a woman had.

"You know the saying that dead men tell no tales? The bones tell everything," he said.

But Bellantoni first had to open the book, and he said this one was a tough read. The site of the find on West Street, aside from being a former landfill, has steep sections, wetlands and a stream. The initial discovery of a skull was made by a 23-year-old resident near the stream. The investigation proceeded from there.

How rugged is the terrain? Back in October, a truck came speeding down the hill on South Street, ran the intersection with West Street, rammed its way through the guardrail and was stuck about halfway down the hill.

It took about a half-hour to get the truck out because the steepness was like a black diamond ski trail.  

It all translated to a tough crime scene.

"This was a very challenging case," Bellantoni said. "The nature of the terrain and the spread of the remains made it very very difficult to recover. The Vernon Police Department and the Major Crimes Unit did a great job of recovery and we should have closure in the near-future. But this is one of the more difficult cases I have ever worked on."

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