Police believe human bones found in Hammond belong to female

2011-10-07T13:15:00Z 2011-10-12T21:00:06Z Police believe human bones found in Hammond belong to femaleBy Steve Zabroski and Vanessa Renderman The Times nwitimes.com
October 07, 2011 1:15 pm  • 

HAMMOND | Police believe human bones found Wednesday among the rubble of a construction site belong to a female, based on the size and style of a ring on one of the fingers.

Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said only one body was found on the site, 1718 Indianapolis Blvd.

Four graduate students from the University of Indianapolis Archeology and Forensics Laboratory joined Stephen Nawrocki, a board-certified forensic anthropologist and professor of biology and anthropology at the University of Indianapolis, in combing through the dirt and concrete chunks Friday morning.

Police and graduate students placed flags and evidence markers in nearly 20 locations throughout the site. Miller later explained that each one marks a piece of bone, which was unintentionally scattered by crews excavating the recently demolished Robertsdale storefront.

At 9:10 a.m. Friday, they pulled back the tarp that had been placed there Wednesday after a neighbor's dog brought home what witnesses said appeared to be a human finger bone wearing a gold ring.

Representatives from the Lake County Coroner's office and Hammond Police also were on the scene Friday morning, helping secure the site that was set off by yellow police tape.

Police had maintained a 24-hour watch on the site since Wednesday, when the dog's owners said they found a possible human skull buried in what was once the rear crawlspace of the now-razed 1924-vintage building. It once was a shoe repair shop, and from 1982 to 2000 was the 24-hour Great Lakes Bait and Tackle Co.

The Lake County coroner's office took custody of the bone, and no official determination of its species of origin had been made.

The Times obtained photos of the skull and finger bones but chose not to publish them until the remains are authenticated.

Nawrocki originally was scheduled to begin an investigation Thursday afternoon, but he moved his arrival to early Friday in order to get a full day of sunlight at the scene, Hammond police Lt. Richard Hoyda said.

Kim Mikulski, who operates the nearby Sprint by Air1 Wireless store and lives in an upstairs apartment with her boyfriend, Mike Bender, said their Rottweiler, Brutus, had wanted to get inside the back door of the bait shop since he was a puppy.

After much of the brick structure was removed Monday, Brutus, who turns 2 years old next month, spent much of his exercise time on the property, she said.

The ring brought home by Brutus on Wednesday was a small gold band, Mikulski said, with a dark blue or black stone flanked by two smaller diamonds.

A steady stream of current and former Hammond and Whiting residents strolled or drove past the site Thursday, an area that was once the center of the Robertsdale neighborhood's business district.

Even without official confirmation that a body actually had been found, many speculated as to the identity of just who could have been buried beneath the building -- from a local firefighter who disappeared shortly after retiring in 1980 to various prostitutes and other night denizens.

The coroner's office again was called to the area Thursday morning on reports that bones were found on the Lake Michigan shoreline just west of Whihala Beach, but the items were not human, officials said.

Anyone with information about a missing person or possible homicide cases that might be connected to the Indianapolis Boulevard discovery is asked to call Hammond police Lt. Thomas Fulk at (219) 852-6373.

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