Forensic experts say that even badly decomposed human corpses still offer up plenty of clues that can help investigators identify the body. Contra Costa County officials are trying to determine if two bodies found washed up on a shoreline this week are those of Laci Peterson and her son.
Noted criminologist Henry Lee says examiners often do a series of initial measurements on skeletal remains as a first step in making an identification. If the height of the skeleton doesn´t match the height of a missing person, that person can be eliminated. Making a positive identification is more difficult than ruling someone out.
Dental records and fingerprints are key ways to determine identity, but they can´t help if skin or teeth are missing. Another way is to compare DNA extracted from a dense bone to a DNA sample lifted from personal items.