LANCASTER — Rumors abounded when the bones of one lone dog were found under a house in Lancaster.
Garrard County Coroner Daryl Hodge remembers the exact time he got the call and exactly what the rumored body count was at that time.
“It was 20 minutes after 11 p.m.,” he said. “The number was more than 20.”
Rumors soon brought the number of bodies thought to be buried under a house in Lancaster from “more than 20” adults to “a mixture of more than 20 adults and children.”
The scene of the rumored horror was a house at 214 Hamilton Ave.
Hodge said a man, Steven Roberts, had just rented the house and was having trouble with the furnace when he crawled under his house and found bones. He called police, who came out.
Roberts’ phone number was unavailable, and he could not be reached for comment.
“I¿went out to the house, but there was no way I was fitting under that house,” Hodge said, laughing. He called Deputy Coroner David “Skinny” Anderson to help.
“Oh no! Don’t call him “Skinny!” He’s not skinny!” Hodge said. “He just was more able to get under the house than me.”
The deputy brought two bones out from under the house. One looked suspicious.
By this time, rumors had adjusted the body count down to six, but it was hardly good news. The rumors had taken a decidedly sinister turn. The rumored bodies under the house were now all children.
Hodge had the bones and knew what to do with them. He had been trained by the best in the business, Dr. Emily Craig, Ph.D., so he knew to not rely on suspicion but to rather verify the origin of the bones.
“She was on the first case I ever worked,” Hodge said.
Hodge called Dr. Craig.
Before going back to school to become a forensic anthropologist, Craig had already earned a worldwide reputation in the rarefied field of anatomical illustrations. Her three-dimensional models of the human skeletal system are used as teaching models and hers is the handbook for bone identification some local law enforcement use.
From this illustrious field, she became a leading expert in forensic physical anthropology and is one of the few in her field who has researched in the FBI’s “Body Farm,” where human decay under various conditions informs the law enforcement. She has served as the forensic anthropologist within the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office and has used her expertise in Waco and Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center.
Craig, author of “Teasing Secrets from the Dead,” has said some of the work she is proudest of is teaching Kentucky coroners how to conduct death investigations.
Hodge used a scale and ruler and took photographs of the suspicious bone. He emailed photos of the suspicious bone to Craig, who retired in 2010 but is still willing to lend her expertise in an unofficial capacity.
She confirmed what Hodge already knew.
Now, the discovery was not horrific, only sad.
“If I were to speculate, I’d say the dog crawled in there at some point, a long, long time ago, and died,” Hodge said.
Craig confirmed the bones were from a dog. Just the one.
Of all the ways a story of bones under a house could have gone, this is probably the best outcome.
“It sure is,” Hodge said. “Otherwise we would have had to bust up his floor because it was really tight under there,” Hodge said.