Preliminary autopsy completed on Turnagain Arm torso

Posted: Tuesday, September 09, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The state medical examiner's office has completed a preliminary autopsy of a torso found on the shore of Turnagain Arm and Anchorage police are investigating the case as a homicide.

Sgt. Scott Jessen, head of homicide, said investigators are pressing ahead to identify the remains and determine the cause of death.

Jessen estimated the woman died months ago. Her body, which had arms but no head or legs, was found Saturday morning by duck hunters. It washed up on the mud flats about 1,000 yards from a South Anchorage residential area.

''It's been out there quite a while,'' he said.

Jessen said DNA samples will be sent to the state crime lab in an effort to identify the remains. As for determining cause of death, he said, ''that's going to be tough.''

Police are still unsure how old the woman was and how the head and legs became detached from the torso, Jessen said.

''We're not positive of a whole lot about it right now,'' he said.

Dr. Franc Fallico, acting chief state medical examiner, said body parts can separate naturally as tissue between bones decomposes. But bodies in water also can lose extremities if they hit boats or rocks, he said.

The gruesome discovery was similar to one in June near Beluga Point, where a headless torso with no legs was found.

Both cases are being investigated as homicides. Jessen would not speculate on whether they are connected.

''I don't want to link these two at this point,'' he said. ''We just don't have enough information.''

Police are waiting for DNA results on the first torso, which was too decomposed to determine a cause of death, he said.

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