Police found a skull and bones Sunday (Oct. 19) “scattered” in a creek bed near a vacant home.
It could take days, if not longer to make a positive identification either through an examination of dental records or by comparing DNA samples.
But there are at least some preliminary indications that it may not be her, according to a police description of the scene.
Dale Terry a Chesterfield Deputy Sheriff, said that investigators found a skull, bones, and vertebrae at the scene in Abermarle County just outside of Charlottesville, Va.
Although the location suggests it could be Graham’s body, the degree of decomposition suggests otherwise if the police description is accurate.
Graham went missing on the night of Sept. 13. If she was killed within hours of the time she was last seen with prime suspect Jesse Matthew, that means her body lay on the ground for about 36 days.
Although it’s possible for a body to decay to just bones within a month, weather conditions and other factors would have to be right.
Cool temperatures, for example, could prevent the body from fully decomposing that soon, according to medical references.
If no animals disturbed the body, soft tissues and the main body cavities would still be evident after a month of decomposition and the skeleton would be intact.
Daytime temperatures were relatively mild in the Charlottesville area after Sept. 13.
They ranged from 69 degrees to 80 degrees with most days in the low- to mid-70s, according to Accuweather. Nightime temperatures were in the 50s.
Police are pointing to two clues, however, that suggest the body could be Graham’s.
The vertebrae found at the scene suggest the person was tall and Graham was 5-feet-11-inches in height. Dark-colored pants similar to Graham’s on the night of her disappearance were also found near the remains.
Other more circumstantial evidence also points to her.
The body was found about 10 miles from where Graham was last seen outside an area of bars an other nightlife. She could have easily been transported there.
It’s also about three miles from a home where Matthew lived with his mother up until a few years ago, according to police, suggesting he knew the area.
The latest remains were also about six miles from the location of Morgan Harrington’s body. The 20-year-old Virginia Tech student vanished in 2009, according to reports. Evidence links Matthew to that case as well as a 2005 sexual assault, police said.
Police have returned to the scene since the discovery to meticulously search for clues. So far, Matthew, a technician at the University of Virginia hospital is the only suspect.
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