Skull with SH history returned to tribes

A human skull, identified as Native American, has been returned to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde after a cold case investigation by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office major crimes detectives with assistance from the county chief deputy medical examiner .

On May 25, 1984, a sheriff’s deputy seized the skull from the family of a 7-year-old boy who had taken the skull to Hawthorne Grade School in Sweet Home for show-and-tell.

The boy’s family told the Sheriff’s Office the boy had gotten it from a friend, who had borrowed it from his father. Nothing further was known about the skull until late 2009, when Major Crimes Detectives with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office contacted the person who had taken the skull to school in 1984. He provided information regarding his friend and his friend’s father. Detectives found that both of them are deceased.

Detectives were told, but were unable to confirm, that the father who had the skull in his possession had been employed as a custodian at the Albany College, formerly located on Queen Avenue near Liberty Street in Albany. A mascot used at the college at the time was a skull and crossbones. According to the Linn County Historical Society, Albany College closed and moved to Portland in 1943, where it became Lewis and Clark College.

Detectives sent the skull to Jeanne McLaughlin, a forensic anthropologist with the University of Oregon. She determined the skull was from an adult female, was archaeological in nature and “probably Asian/Native American.”

Detectives and Linn County Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Jennifer Schindell contacted the State Historic Preservation Office, Commission on Indian Services, and Oregon State Police. It was determined that representatives of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde would receive the remains, which they did Tuesday, Sept. 28.

The representatives told detectives that after consulting with other tribes, the remains will be returned and reburied according to customs of the respective tribe.

This is the second time this year that Linn County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Detectives have solved a cold case involving a human skull.

In March of this year, a skull, found in 1979, was positively identified as belonging to Samilla Stewart, the victim of a December 1974 motor vehicle crash. The vehicle had gone off Highway 20 and into Moose Creek east of Sweet Home. Her body was not recovered; however, the skull was later found by fishermen. The skull was identified through DNA and returned to Stewart’s family.