Two of the three sets of female remains found near a Southeast D.C. apartment building were buried together in a shallow grave more than a year ago, police say.
Police discovered the shallow grave in a wooded area behind the apartment building where, days before, construction crews found a human skull. Three sets of remains have been found, and all were identified as adult women.
The remains have been buried behind the apartment on the 100 block of Wayne Place Southeast for at least one year, Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr., the city's chief medical examiner, said. It appears that the three remains have been buried for about the same amount of time, Mitchell said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Once remains have been buried for longer than a year, establishing a timeline of burial and decomposition is more difficult, Mitchell said.
DNA evidence from each woman will likely be available to compare to any living family members, Mitchell said. That evidence can also be compared against a national databse of missing persons.
A forensic anthropologist is working to determine identifying characteristics for the remains of the three women, including ancestry, age and stature. Because of the ongoing investigation, police declined to say if evidence of bodily trauma, clothing or personal affects were found near the burial sites.
Although few details are confirmed at this point, homicide detectives are investigating.
"It's an undetermined death at this point, but circumstances certainly rise to the level of suspicious, so our homicide unit is involved," D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said.
Construction workers first found an apparent human skull and other bones on Wednesday underneath the apartment while digging in the crawl space.
Adan Escobar's crew notified him that they had found something suspicious. Escobar says he saw bones that had been damaged by a worker's pick.
"No hair, just bones," Escobar recalled.
Police began investigating the crawl space and their search expanded when police dogs identified more locations of human remains.
The medical examiner's office announced Friday that the first remains are human.
On Saturday, police announced they had found the two other sets of remains behind the apartment building. The medical examiner's office said the remains were comingled in the shallow grave, which could mean the remains were buried without clothing.
Mayor Muriel Bowser visited the site and promised that police were working to identify the deceased.
"We take very seriously this investigation," Bowser said.
After the initial discovery, neighbors expressed concern.
"It's insane. To find human remains -- it's not OK," neighbor Ikea Jones said. "We have children in the neighborhood. They play. They do a lot, and it's a quiet neighborhood, a beautiful neighborhood, and everyone here is cool."