ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. | A state forensics lab is helping to identify human remains found during an investigation of a New Mexico company whose owner faces fraud charges after heads and other body parts traced to the firm were discovered at Stericycle, a medical waste facility in Kansas City, Kan.
The DNA section of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety's Northern Forensic Laboratory is analyzing samples to help identify other body parts found at the Bio Care facility in Albuquerque.
Forensic scientists using DNA comparison from 100 samples of body parts have linked samples to 25 males and 19 females.
The lab is matching the samples to each other, while the state Office of the Medical Investigator will identify to whom the body parts belong, said Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson said.
Medical investigators have said the remains represent 40 to 50 people.
The lab is analyzing samples from remains "that are not whole remains — arms, legs, torsos — to try to associate those parts with other parts," said Dr. Peter Loomis, the OMI's forensic odontologist.
Once that is done, those working to identify the body parts will obtain samples from family members to compare to the DNA from the body parts, he said.
"It's a continual work in progress," Loomis said.
He could not say when it might be finished. The OMI has had the bodies and body parts from the Bio Care facility since early April.
Investigators are still working to get dental and medical records for some people whose bodies were donated to Bio Care, Loomis said.
"Every day, we're looking at new records as they come in and comparing them to the remains that we have," he said.
State officials said OMI faced waits of three months to two years and a cost of at least $20,000 if officials had been forced to send samples outside New Mexico. The state lab, however, can return results in a week to 10 days.
Bio Care harvested organs and other parts from donated bodies to sell for medical research. When the process was completed, Bio Care sent the remains for cremation and gave the ashes to families.
Bio Care owner Paul Montano was charged with three counts of fraud after some body parts found in Kansas in late March were identified as belonging to people whose cremated remains had been returned to their families.
Loomis said some people already have been identified from dental or medical X-rays, and some parts can be identified from such things as tattoos or medical implants.