Investigators on Saturday met with families affected by the crematory incident to announce their final efforts to identify remains found at the crematory.
“This is the last time investigators plan to formally meet with family members affected by the crematory,” Walker County Emergency Services Director David Ashburn said.
Georgia chief medical examiner Kris Sperry said the identification process should be finished within weeks.
Although officials are wrapping up loose ends, Sperry said the case is not closed. DNA samples continue to trickle in, and the GBI recently received an e-mail asking how to submit a DNA sample.
“All of the appropriate DNA samples have been tested,” Sperry said. “We have exhausted everything we can do.”
As of Saturday, 112 sets of remains were still unidentified of the 334 uncovered at the crematory site.
Sperry said some of the remains could still be easily identified, but only if the right person looks at it.
Identifying characteristics include clothing and surgical scars, he said.
Cremains and urns sent to investigators for analysis will be maintained by the GBI until all litigation is over to ensure they are protected, located in one place and prevent further contamination, Sperry said.
The end of the identification process brings Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert “Buzz” Franklin closer to presenting his case to the Walker grand jury, he said, adding he still hopes to seek indictments in March.
Cleveland resident Melissa Whitfield said she has a plan for families who received the wrong cremains from the crematory. Whitfield envisions a memorial fountain to be built in a Cleveland cemetery. When officials release the cremains back to family members, she asks that they be housed in vaults surrounding the fountain.
“It came to me in a dream,” she said.
Whitfield, who has met with architects about the project, said she hopes family members and philanthropists will help defray the cost of construction. She does not know how much it will cost. Interested partied may contact Whitfield at (423) 479-6052, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officials also used Saturday’s gathering to dispel some myths.
Reports of a body being returned to a family with three legs are not true, Sperry said. Two metatarsals, or toe bones, were accidentally discovered when one set of remains was returned and tested by an anthropologist at the family request.
“Two small bones turned into a leg bone,” Sperry said. “These stories are nothing but urban myths.”
Ashburn said the county is not planning a memorial service, but will announce when the unidentified remains are buried at Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park.
Other officials present were District Attorney Herbert “Buzz” Franklin, Walker Sheriff Steve Wilson, Walker Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, GBI Public Affairs Director John Bankhead, GBI agent Greg Ramey. State Rep. Mike Snow, D-Chickamauga, was also present.
“I wanted to make myself available to answer questions, and to let the folks know that the state Legislature is still involved,” said Snow