It could take months to identify human remains found at Jacksonville construction site

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than two dozen investigators were sifting through a Northside Jacksonville construction site on Wednesday, where a day prior, human remains were found buried in a pile of dirt.

Detectives with both the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office were at the scene near I-295 and Main Street. Jacksonville police said they will continue searching the area until they feel they’ve recovered everything they can.

Investigators could be in the area for up to a week.

Police believe the remains have been buried for awhile, but they weren’t able to give an exact time frame. Christian Hancock, public information officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said the next step is determining who the remains belong to.

“The deterioration of the remains is a big factor in what we can derive from them,” Hancock said.

READ: Human remains unearthed at Jacksonville construction site

The remains are now being scrutinized at the Medical Examiner’s Office, where inspectors will try to pull DNA and dental impressions before sending the remains off to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab for further analysis.

Hancock said it’s a process that could take several months.

“If we get DNA, that is a great big factor, but then we have to hope that individual has DNA on file,” Hancock said.

If the FDLE can’t come up with an identification, a forensic anthropologist will examine the remains. It’s possible a facial reconstruction image will be released at a later date.

Unsolved missing persons cases

Anytime human remains are uncovered, there are families hoping they belong to their missing loved ones. There are several unsolved missing persons cases in the Jacksonville area that go back decades.

Sunday will mark 19 years since 34-year-old John Rowan Jr. vanished from his Jacksonville home. Every day his mother, Peg Rowan, thinks of her son and wonders what happened.

“I can’t say it’s gotten easier. I think it’s gotten worse,” Rowan said. “Getting no answers drains you completely.”

Rowan is holding out hope the uncovered remains could bring her the answers she’s been longing for.

“I would love it to be him, I really would, so we can bring him home and put him to rest,” Rowan said.

Rowan hosts an annual event remembering all of the missing adults in the area. She knows their families are in the same situation -- waiting and hoping for answers.

“Just light a candle today for your loved one," Rowan said. “Pray that it will be one of them.”

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