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Clark County Coroner Exhumes First Body for DNA Testing | Crime

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Clark County Coroner Exhumes First Body for DNA Testing
Crime

LAS VEGAS -- Thirteen years after his murder, a man's family may finally get closure. The coroner exhumed the man's body Wednesday morning to try and confirm his identity and hopefully return his remains to family members.

The Clark County Coroner's office got a federal grant to investigate dozens of unidentified remains cases using new forensic technology. 

Coroner website of unidentified bodies

A team of people showed up at Davis Funeral Home near Sunset and Eastern early Wednesday morning to remove sod, dirt and two caskets from the burial site. Both caskets belong to unidentified men but only one of them is their focus on this day. The coroner has done only eight exhumations in eight years. This will be the ninth of many more to come.

The unidentified man's body leaves the grave site in a bag as John Doe but soon he will undergo testing that will reveal his identity.

"The body comes to our office so we can apply our new science to it. We'll do a full work-up on that case, the original autopsy will be reviewed, then the bone sample will be collected for DNA and a full dental work-up, and tissue," said Coroner Mike Murphy.

Police believe the unidentified man is Antonio Marino, an El Salvadorian immigrant who died living on the streets of North Las Vegas in March of 1997. Police never confirmed his identity but they did find the person responsible for beating him to death.

"We did make an arrest in 1997. He gave a full confession and he was sent to prison," said retired detective Roy Chandler, who investigated the 1997 case.

Chandler says learning the identity of a missing person can be a blessing and a curse for the victim's family.

"It'll open up a whole new realm of questions the family has got, and that's the unfortunate thing. They were asking themselves before whatever happened to my brother? Whatever happened to my son? And now they'll be able to know what happened and when it happened."

This case is only the beginning. The coroner's office received a $400,000 federal grant to exhume and test 50 unidentified bodies over the next 18 months.

"The goal here is to apply that money to as many cases as we can," said Murphy.

If the body is identified as Antonio Marino, the coroner will contact his family in El Salvador to have his body transported back home.

The coroner expects a positive identification to be made within 90 days. 

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