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Adult male skull found in woods

A human skull found on a logging trail in the Cedar Flats area off of Delphi Road appears to be that of an adult male, a Thurston County Sheriff's spokesman said Monday night.

A man who lives on Canning Court found the skull on a logging path several hundred yards from his home around

6 p.m. Sunday while he was looking for his dog, said Thurston County Chief Criminal Deputy Jim Chamberlain.

On Monday, "cadaver" dogs trained to find human remains scoured the area and the surrounding woods, but did not find any other human remains or any evidence that might be connected to the skull, said Thurston County Sheriff's Lt. Chris Mealy.

The man who found the skull declined to comment Monday night. But a neighbor on Canning Court said she is disturbed by the gruesome discovery on a path that many local residents hike on.

"It's very unnerving," said Susan Swanson. "This was our sanctuary." Swanson added, however, that Sunday's discovery will not prevent her from walking alone in the woods by her house.

The identity of the skull and how it got to a logging path Sunday night was a mystery to investigators on Monday. The skull, which was partially covered in moss, might have been unearthed and dragged to the location by an animal, Chamberlain said.

The lower jaw is missing, but the rest of the skull is intact, Mealy said. Dental work in the teeth of the upper jaw might assist investigators in identifying the skull, he added.

Mealy said that a preliminary examination by a forensic anthropologist led her to conclude that it appears to be an adult male.

The skull is in the custody of the Thurston County Coroner's office.

The skull is in "pretty pristine condition," Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said. "It lacks skin and hair. There's no tissue at all," he said.

The dental work in the skull's upper teeth appears to be fillings, Warnock said.

It remains undetermined whether the skull belongs to a homicide victim, a suicide, or someone who died an accidental death, Chamberlain said. The age of the person and time of death are also unknown, he said.

One homicide case involving a missing skull occurred in 2003. David George of Olympia was 51-years-old when he was murdered and dismembered in 2003.

Two men were convicted of first-degree murder in connection with George's slaying. Most of George's remains were found in July 2003 by a property owner in rural Thurston County who had once given one of the convicted murderers work.

But George's skull was never found. Chamberlain cited George as one possible identity of the skull that was found on Sunday, but he added that the investigation of the skull is still in the beginning stages.

"There doesn't appear to be any obvious indications it was a homicide victim," Chamberlain said.

The land where the skull was found belongs to the state Department of Natural Resources, and the sheriff's office had to get a search warrant to go onto the site and conduct the investigation Sunday and Monday, Chamberlain said.

The man who found the skull Monday picked it up and carried it back to his house, and later gave it to deputies, Mealy said. Sheriff's officials did not raise any concerns about the man contaminating the evidence by picking up to the skull and taking it to his house.

Search and rescue teams with cadaver dogs may continue their search for evidence today in the area where the skull was found, Mealy said.

Jeremy Pawloski covers public safety for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5465 or jpawloski@theolympian.com.

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