College Students Assist with Exhuming Bodies in Starr Co.

5 years 4 months 5 days ago Monday, May 22 2017 May 22, 2017 May 22, 2017 6:47 PM May 22, 2017 in News

RIO GRANDE CITY – College students are digging up graves in a Starr County cemetery with the county’s permission.

Texas State University anthropology associate professor Kate Spradley is leading the all-volunteer effort to identify unknown remains buried all throughout South Texas. Students from Texas State University and the University of Indianapolis are doing the digging.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reported in depth how they’ve already recovered 226 sets of human remains in Brooks County.

The volunteers said they have no idea how many bodies they’ll find at the county cemetery. But they know presumed migrants were buried there for decades without grave markers.

Most John and Jane Does at the county cemetery are usually buried in unmarked at the place. Spradley said it makes the work of finding and exhuming unknown remains difficult.

“We really have no idea how many people we’ll find… We’re going pretty much the same thing we did in Falfurrias. It’s just harder because there are no markers here,” she said. “So, we have to go by, rely on people telling where they think unidentified remains were buried based on their memory.”

Spradley said the graves are much deeper and the soil is really hard and full of lots of rocks, making it much more difficult than the exhumations done in Brooks County.

Starr County crews helped volunteers by digging into the ground first with a back –hoe.

Volunteers said they hope to exhume unidentified people in counties all over South Texas. In the four years since they started, they’ve only touched two cemeteries.

“We plan to stick with this project as long as it takes,” a volunteer said.

The group will be at the cemetery for a week. However, they said they don’t expect to finish exhuming all the unidentified bodies during that time.

“I honestly feel like we’re looking at decades of work ahead of us,” Spradley said.

She said they plan to keep coming back until they get them all.

150 out of the 226 bodies found in Brookes County have been sent out for DNA analysis. The remains will then be handed over to loved ones.

The groups said they suspect all of them were migrants from Central America and Mexico.

Most of the 226 sets of human remains found in Brooks County were buried at the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Falfurrias. 

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