FGCU anthropology team uses new excavation tools to help crack cold case

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:
Human remains. (Credit: WINK News)
Human remains. (Credit: WINK News)

Florida Gulf Coast University’s anthropology team is helping crack a 35-year-old case. The team wants to find what happened to an 8-year-old girl who vanished in 1984.

Seeing right through something is a superpower many kids want. But now, it is a real tool FGCU anthropology team has at its disposal. It is designed to find clandestine graves.

The ground-penetrating radar is the first of several new tools Dr. Heather Walsh-Haney said her team put to use trying to find missing second-grader Christy Luna in Palm Beach County.

They rolled the radar through a backyard and it records as the person walks. The technology sends frequencies into the ground, letting the team see 30-feet deep without digging.

“The peaks tell you when there’s a disturbance,” Walsh-Haney said, “through flags, we had to create alleys to run the GPR down.

Each red flag means there could be something odd below.

“But one of the things you have to remember, especially in a backyard is hotspots,” Walsh-Haney said, “can be water pipes, electrical piping, an old tree stump, an old fence post, an old buried family dog.”

Walsh-Haney said the older the case, the more advanced the technology needed to solve it. Soon, they will add a 3D color scanner to make life-size copies of human remains.

“I can also print those remains and help state’s attorneys and defense attorneys,” Walsh-Haney said.

Walsh-Haney said these tools would help them find loved ones’ remains in Southwest Florida while training students for a future in law enforcement.

The FGCU team plans to add another tool in the coming weeks. It allows them to map out crime scenes faster than before using survey technology.

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