Geo Week News

June 3, 2015

LiDAR Sheds Light on a Mystery Torso

I’ve seen LiDAR used for forensics before, but never quite like this.

Wired reports on an unsolved murder in Clark Count, Idaho. In August of 1979, a family digging for arrowheads in a cave found a headless male torso wearing a pink shirt. In 1981, a girl found a hand partially buried in the same cave. There was not enough information gained in either discovery to identify the victim.

But recently, new technologies have given investigators some much-needed clues. With the help of a forensic anthropologist from Idaho State University, a Clark County sheriff’s deputy was able to use a program called ADBOU to convert skeleton measurements into an age estimate (30s). They also examined remnants on the victim’s remaining skin to figure out his hair color (brown).

Next, the sheriff’s deputy hired an osteologist at the Idaho Virtualization Laboratory named Nicholas Holmer. He brought in–you guessed it–a LiDAR device. With his FARO Focus3D, the osteologist scanned the full cave. They scanned the cave, then came back and scanned it a few months later to see if anything had changed. This process of change detection, they hope, will help identify potential hiding spots for the remaining portions of the body. 

Once they find those, they hope to put the case to rest.

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