Sam Houston State researchers explain difficulties identifying remains of young children

Published: Aug. 13, 2018 at 5:35 PM CDT
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Bryan Police are waiting on forensics to positively identify human remains found earlier this month are that of missing three-year-old Rayven Shields. Investigators believe she was last seen in June.

On August 4, investigators found remains of a small child in a grave at a home where the family had lived on Conner Street. The body was found in a shallow grave and badly decomposed. The remains were sent to the Travis County Medical Examiner.

Still, many questions surround the disappearance of Rayven.

KBTX went to a Sam Houston State University facility near Huntsville to learn more about the process of identifying human remains.

"During the process of decomposition, the body absolutely leaves signatures," said Joan Bytheway, Ph.D. She's a Sam Houston State University professor and director of the Applied Anatomical Research Center. They study human remains and decomposition at their body farm. She said there are challenges identifying the remains of children.

"They may have never been to the dentist, so you can't use dental records. You are going to have to use DNA to make an assessment," said Bytheway.

"There's other times you could use soft tissues as well to identify that person positively," she said. Bytheway said there is still a wait when using DNA to identify remains.

"It does take a while to get the results, but it just depends on who, what county is working that case and how quickly they want to get those results back. I would say it's absolutely a four to six week time span on average," Bytheway said.

Rayven Shield's mother Virginia Adams remains jailed for interfering with a child custody case.