LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A bone that was initially categorized as an animal bone is now being examined as human remains after a report by the 8 News Now Investigators.
The Barker family reached out to 8 News Now earlier this year with concerns after they handed over a bone they found at Lake Mead to the National Park Service in July of 2021.
“They kept trying to tell me it was a donkey bone,” Bruce Barker said.
Barker’s teenage granddaughter, Kimmie, found the bone near South Cove in Arizona, an area where the Colorado River begins to form Lake Mead.
“I was like ‘oooh, look at that!’ And then I went off to my grandpa and I go ‘Grandpa, look what I found!'” Kimmie Barker said.
The National Park Service wrote in an email that “medical officials determined the bone was not human.” The 8 News Now Investigators reached out to the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s office which said a photo was sent to a forensic anthropologist who determined it was an animal bone, the bone was destroyed, and there were no records of this.
The 8 News Now Investigators then obtained a report from the National Park Service through a public records request, which confirmed that photos were sent to the medical examiner’s office and that the bone was being stored in evidence.
In October, the 8 News Now Investigators were informed that the National Park Service handed the bone over to the medical examiner’s office to be investigated as human remains and for possible identification.
“That’s incredible. I thought it would be lost. That’s incredible,” Barker said. He expressed the importance of closure, especially since the passing of his 22-year-old daughter in 2005. “People need closure. We’ve seen the bodies here now at Lake Mead and it’s bringing families closure.”
Dr. Jennifer Byrnes, an assistant professor at UNLV, is one of three forensic anthropologists whom the 8 News Now Investigators initially reached out to. All three agreed that the bone is a human femur.
“It would be really unfortunate if the remains were never examined and never investigated to try to identify the person,” Byrnes said.
The Mohave County Medical Examiner’s office sent a statement hours before the deadline saying that a National Park Service ranger only sent photos of a bone fragment different from the photos provided to 8 News Now, and that’s why the bone was categorized as an animal bone. The statement reads in part, “It is unclear why there is such a huge discrepancy in images and the actual bone.”
Full statement here: