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Skeleton found in Lancaster to be buried

The identity of a woman whose bones were found in a vacant house is still unknown, but her remains will be buried in a Lancaster City Cemetery plot donated by a Lexington woman.

Garrard County Coroner Daryl Hodge said Tuesday that he has closed the case surrounding the bones discovered Aug. 16.

Dr. Emily Craig, the state's chief forensic anthropologist, had said the bones are those of a woman about 20 years old who died during childbirth about 50 years ago.

The bones were found in an old coffin in the middle of the living room of the first floor of the vacant, two-story house. The home is part of a row of old buildings on West Buford Street in Lancaster that will be demolished for a new judicial center.

The case was about to be closed until it was learned some of the bones were missing. In looking for the missing bones, Deputy Coroner Robin Betty turned up several items, including old IV bottles, syringes and other medical supplies. That led Hodge to investigate further, because the house had not been a hospital or doctor's office.

So investigators searched about 18 hours on Friday and Saturday, but no new evidence of significance was found. The missing bones from the hands and feet were not found.

After consulting with Craig and Mike Wilder of the state medical examiner's office, Hodge is closing the case. But he said it could be reopened if new information comes to light.

"If someone called me and said, 'That was my mother' or 'That was my grandmother,'" then Hodge would give it another look, he said.

He added: "It would have to be something very substantial for me to reopen this case, because I don't have the resources or the manpower to just keep looking and digging."

In the meantime, Joann Laxson of Lexington has donated a cemetery lot, plus a headstone, in Lancaster City Cemetery. Laxson read about the bones in the newspaper. Garrard County will pay to dig the grave, Hodge said.

"Years ago she had told the caretaker at the cemetery she was hoping to someday donate this thing to a needy person," Hodge said.

Hodge said the young woman will be buried sometime next week, possibly Monday or Tuesday.

"She was somebody's daughter. She could be somebody's mother; because she died in childbirth, we don't know if that child lived or not," Hodge said. "She deserves a proper burial. That's the least that I can do as county coroner. We want to do the right thing by her."