Unidentified Bodies Unearthed in Willacy Co.

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RAYMONDVILLE – Willacy County authorities said they recently uncovered a mystery near a small cemetery.

Willacy County Sheriff Mjr. Ernesto Garcia says his property sits next to the site, north of Santa Monica.

He said in the last two weeks, he watched as student volunteers painstakingly collected DNA and cataloged dozens of unidentified remains.

"They got a backhoe and gently started removing the top layer of soil. They got down about 4 to 5 feet where they started locating these remains," he recalled. "Some of these bodies were in a state of decomposition where there was a visible skull and a skeletal structure.” 

Nearby, you can find markers of Johns and Janes Doe’s, including one depicting a June 27, 2015, date.

Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra said they are clues that the Forensic Border Coalition asked to search for in this dig

Garcia told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the group told him they’re working to repatriate these individuals. 

Last year, we followed volunteers in Brooks County where dozens of other unidentified bodies were located.

We were told then that there may be thousands of these unmarked grave sites across the state.

“This problem is not just in Brooks County," said Texas State Associate Professor of Anthropology Kate Spradley. "It’s very widespread. It’s all over south Texas. There are hundreds more that will never be recovered, maybe even thousands.”

Texas state law requires unidentified remains be investigated and mandates keeping DNA samples and records of the burial sites. 

Garcia explained the site in Willacy County had markers, but the graves belonged to Jane and John Doe’s brought 10 to 15 years ago from Cameron County. 

"Most of these remains placed here several years back were unclaimed John Doe’s from Cameron County,” he says. “They were shown dignity by being buried and not left at the medical examiner's office. And what it was, they did a very good job, they buried them.” 

Volunteers now continue that process of bringing dignity to the dead in Brooks County, and now in Willacy County. 

Those helping in last year's excavation and authorities presume many of these remains belong to migrants. The cemetery mapping team told us then that they plan to investigate all Texas counties.

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