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Remains found six years ago identified

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Thanks to clay, DNA and a baseball cap, human remains found six years ago at Park Estate near Stateline have been identified in what is a big victory for authorities.

Douglas County sheriff’s Investigators solved the six-year puzzle providing closure to the family of Arturo Quirarte, a South Lake Tahoe man in his early 30s whose body was found in 1997.

“More than anything I wanted to be able to tell the family that this was their son and they can have a funeral,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Investigator Rick Brown said.

In 2000, Brown sent the skull to Louisiana State University Forensic Anthropology Lab. The cost was $500 to send it over and have a clay reconstruction of what the man possibly looked like made. The fee was covered by Rocky Mountain Information Network, an agency assisting law enforcement in handling cases.

The same year, a clay replica was sent to Brown, who floated it to media outlets. No leads panned out.

Last year, Brown again provided a picture of the clay face to media, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune and television stations. Quirarte’s sister, who was working at South Lake Tahoe, saw the picture in the Tribune and called Brown. Another sister contacted Brown after watching a Sacramento news station.

Other leads poured in, but with more discussion with the sisters and other family members, Brown came to believe the body was Quirarte’s.

Brown said a colleague who was walking past his desk saw Quirarte’s picture next to the clay mold. The colleague congratulated Brown on solving the case before DNA results were received.

DNA from Quirarte’s mother and cousin were used. Quirarte’s cousin also wore the baseball cap found next to the body. Brown wanted to avoid any confusion if a different identity appeared on the test.

Brown said he believes the process will aid in other missing persons cases.