That rough estimate, yet to be confirmed by forensic testing, may put to rest wide and varied speculation about the bones discovered just north of Mountain Home last weekend — but creates its own questions about just whose remains they are.
Elmore County Sheriff Mike Hollinshead told the Statesman Tuesday that the skeleton, believed to belong to a child between the ages of 1 and 5, was protruding from a grave that was being used as a badger den.
“It was in the grave, but not intact,” Hollinshead said. “The badger had come out of the hole and pushed some of the bones out.”
He said workers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game were at the site near Hot Creek Road, about a half-mile north of Mountain Home, on Saturday when “they looked down and saw some bones. Closer observation showed it to be a human skull, and we were contacted immediately.”
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The sheriff’s office announced the discovery Monday, saying the child’s remains included no clothing or other fibers and had been in the ground “for a considerable amount of time.”
Social media exploded with speculation that the bones could belong to DeOrr Kunz Jr., the Idaho Falls 2-year-old who disappeared during a Lemhi County camping trip with his family in July 2015. And archaeologists were called in to evaluate — and dismiss, the sheriff said — the possibilities the skeletal remains could be related to Oregon Trail emigrants or a Native American burial ground.
The sheriff’s office hasn’t ruled out that the child may have been a victim of a crime. A more precise estimate should be available after forensic testing, he said.
“We’re sending the remains to an agency that can identify what sex, how old and hopefully how long it had been buried,” he said. “It’s going to take weeks.”
The sheriff declined to say which agency was going to examine the bones. And he said he couldn’t respond to questions about the child’s possible cause of death and whether forensic examination was expected to make that clear.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Hollinshead said.
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447