Forensic teams try to identify bodies found near Texas border

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter
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HOUSTON - Volunteers from Baylor and Indiana universities are working to identify the remains of dozens of people found in the rural community of Brooks County, which is less than a five-hour drive south from Houston.

Sheriff's officials said many of the bodies recovered are illegal immigrants who died from exposure and dehydration while trying to make their way across the dense underbrush that makes up much of the county.

 Last year, Local 2 Investigates reported 129 bodies were discovered in the Brooks County, more than double the total number of bodies found the year before.

Chief Deputy Urbino Martinez said 22 bodies have been found so far this year.

"Many of these people we try to identify, but we can't," said Martinez.

 As a result, dozens of the bodies discovered are buried in "pauper's graves" in the county cemetery at an expense to taxpayers of between $1,200 and $1,500 per body.

Martinez said the volunteers from the universities are now exhuming at least 50 graves and sending the bodies to Texas State University for forensic analysis so DNA samples can be taken from the remains. Martinez said the work is being spearheaded by Baylor associate professor of Anthropology Dr. Lori Baker.

 "This is a wonderful thing that will hopefully help families find out what happened to their loved ones," said Martinez.

 Martinez said the work is being done in conjunction with the missing migrant project.

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