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Search for skeletal remains turns up 21 bones; identity still unknown

Authorities don’t know whether remains are from more than one person

The search for more human skeletal remains in the Santa Cruz riverbed turned up three more small bones, found by cadaver dogs on a training exercise, a Marana police spokesman said.

On Wednesday, the dogs, trained to find human remains, found the bones, bringing to 21 the number found this week, said Sgt. Bill Derfus.

Authorities have found nothing that helps determine whose remains were found in the Santa Cruz, just south of the Cortaro Road bridge, and the case has been turned over to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office.

It is also not known if the bones are from more than one person. However, the remains, Marana police said, could be those of Roy J. Harris, 28, a Tucson man who was washed into a Santa Cruz tributary during heavy rain last summer.

Derfus said Tuesday the remains, the first of which were found Sunday night, also could be those of a transient or an illegal immigrant.

Derfus said the medical examiner’s office and a forensic anthropologist have examined the recovered bones and determined they are those of a white man, 5 feet 7 to 5 feet 11, with a “robust build.”

Harris was white, 5 feet 10 and weighed 270, said Dr. Eric Peters, deputy chief medical examiner. The remains “are consistent with a person of Harris’ size and weight,” Peters said.

No clothing or other items were found to identify the dead person, Derfus said.

Derfus said Harris’ family members will be asked to give a DNA sample and the medical examiner’s office will try to do a comparison with DNA from the bones.

Marana police Sgt. Tim Brunenkant said the first of the remains were found Sunday by 12- and 18-year-old sisters walking their dogs.

Brunenkant said the girls’ dogs dug something up in the riverbed and when the girls went to look, they found a skull. The girls ran home and called police.

Harris was swept away by monsoon floodwaters about 10:40 p.m. July 19 when he stepped out of his car and was carried into a drainage pipe that runs beneath a lumberyard at North 15th Avenue and West Mabel Street and empties into the Santa Cruz.

Harris was on his way from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to his home near Interstate 10 and West Ruthrauff Road when he apparently became lost and disoriented in the storm, his mother, Mary Harris, said at the time.

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