An autopsy confirmed a human head and hands were found at a newly bought home in western Colorado, but investigators said further testing is required to help establish an identity of the victim.
“These types of tests take a significant amount of time,” the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement after the severed body parts were examined Wednesday, adding, “Our hope is to positively identify the victim while remaining respectful of the victim and the victim’s family.”
The grisly discovery occurred last week in a quiet neighborhood near Grand Junction, west of Denver.
A sheriff’s office spokeswoman declined to confirm certain details Saturday, including where the body parts were discovered at the home.
A neighbor, Sam Troester, told NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver that the previous homeowners — an elderly mother and her son — had moved out on the morning of Jan. 12 and new owners showed up that same day to begin clearing the property. The homebuyers had posted online to invite people to collect scrap metal and take other materials left behind in the yard and garage, including a freezer, Troester said.
But when investigators in hazmat gear later arrived, Troester took cellphone video of the unusual scene across the street.
Unexpectedly, people who had been on the property knocked on her door asking to use her restroom, and she wanted to know what was happening.
“They continued to tell me that they opened the freezer and they were taking the meat that was on top out, to empty it out so they could transport it,” Troester said. “They moved the old freeze-dried meat, took out a black bag.”
“They were opening it,” she added, “and they said a head fell out.”
The sheriff’s office said no additional remains were located during a search of the property. The agency was working with other law enforcement to determine if the parts may belong to a known missing person.
The sheriff’s office declined to say if authorities had made contact with the previous homeowners and did not confirm their identity.
Troester said she knew the family to store items in their yard, but did not know if they were aware of the human remains.
“I feel so bad,” Troester said. “I would hate to have to be the family missing that loved one right now.”