Wednesday, April 24, 2013



All one has to do to get material for one's book is
read the news. Or, perhaps, make it. One evening recently, my husband went for a walk near where we live in a rural area above the Mesilla Valley. I was fully expecting him to be home within the hour he is usually gone. However, instead, he used his cell phone to call me.

"Bring the truck and my GPS unit," he said. "I think I've found some human bones." I did as he asked. By the time I found him, a couple of miles north of our house, he had called 911: he had found additional remains that confirmed what he'd found was human: the lower jaw. As an archaeologist, my husband is fairly well-acquainted with the human skeleton, however, I think even I would have recognized a human mandible.

While waiting for officers from the Sheriff's Department to arrive, we pinflagged all the remains he had found and some that we located after I arrived. When the deputies got close, we had to meet them farther down the dirt road and lead them into the rough, rocky country, where my husband had found the remains. This area sports a variety of plant life, including yucca, ocotillo, prickly pear, and creosote.

We spent the next couple of hours showing the deputies the remains we'd found in and near a small wash and assisted them in looking for more. It was getting on to dark; however, one of the deputies found the skull not long after they had arrived. We left after a period of not finding any additional remains; we had missed dinner and were getting cold and hungry.

The deputies and others stayed out there all night, looking for additional bones or bits of clothing that might have belonged to the individual they had decided was a male, probably in his 20s or 30s.
My husband had first found clothing; a belt buckle and a shoe, before discovering any of the bones, the first of which was a femur.  Although they found what they believed to be a fragment of some boxer shorts, law enforcement officers found little more that night. They've been out there since that night and found a cap.

How did this man come to be there? We are not in an area of the state where people regularly cross the border from Mexico into New Mexico. Was he a murder victim someone dumped or did he die at the scene? Was it a drug deal gone bad or something else? How long has he been out there? Was he a hiker who died of exposure? (My husband and I do not subscribe to this theory, as he was within sight of houses, which even at night, would have been lit well enough that he could have navigated toward them.) Temperatures can fall below freezing here, but based on the shreds of clothing that were found, I would guess he didn't end up out here in the dead of winter.

The deputies informed us there are numerous unsolved missing persons cases, quite an interesting tidbit in itself. Perhaps someone who recognizes the cap, the buckle, or the shoe will come forward and give some grieving family a sense of closure. Or maybe the mystery man will remain just that: a faceless, nameless individual who met his death in a unknown manner, alone in the desert.

© Beth Morgan