BONNY DOON -- Human bones found near Smith Grade Road have presented challenges for investigators, authorities said Tuesday, in part because the normal clues in flesh and blood are absent.
The Santa Cruz County Coroner's Unit has not determined the gender, height or cause of death of the skeleton found Friday near Smith Grade Road and Warren Drive, said deputy Ryan Kennedy. It also remains unclear whether foul play was involved.
"It's not the traditional medical evaluation," Kennedy said Tuesday.
Unlike a typical cadaver, coroner's investigators can't look at skin wounds and internal organs to determine the cause of death.
Also, unlike a fresh death, there is "no time element" that obligates investigators to track leads quickly, Kennedy said.
The Coroner's Unit plans to investigate the bones in more detail next week, he said.
Investigators likely will extract DNA samples from the bones and send them to a laboratory outside the county to try to identify the person. The investigation will take time, Kennedy said.
"You make sure you do things meticulously and do them right, without a bias" of where the investigation might lead, said Kennedy.
A county water utility worker found the skeleton Friday afternoon off Smith Grade near Bonny Doon.
Part of the skeleton was found on the surface of the ground, and part was underground, authorities said.
Investigators have not yet determined how long the bones were there because they need to look at factors such as weather and soil composition.
Kennedy did not know if clothing or other objects were found near the bones.
If investigators use dental records to identify the person, it would be only after they have a suspicion of who the person might be, he said.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office asks anyone with information to call dispatch at 831-471-1121.
Follow Sentinel reporter Stephen Baxter at Twitter.com/sbaxter--sc
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