Experts detail what's next if remains are found during Macomb County search

Posted at 5:55 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 18:28:35-04

Forensic scientists and anthropologists are weighing in on search efforts in Macomb County that investigators said could be linked to a potential serial killer.

Law enforcement from the Warren Police Department, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI are combing an area in Macomb County off 23 Mile and North Avenue, searching for possible human remains.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer tells 7 Action News investigators are searching for up to six bodies, and the suspect involved is Arthur Ream. 

Dwyer called Ream a potential serial killer and said he acted alone.

During the search efforts in Macomb County, forensic scientists and anthropologists will also be a part of the efforts.

David Foran Ph.D, is the Director of the Forensic Science Program at Michigan State University. He’s not a part of this investigation, but he often helps law enforcement identify remains. 

"Part of the training that we here at Michigan State University is to train policy agencies on doing these type of searches,” said Foran.

A big sobering piece of information he offered right off the bat during his interview with 7 Action News - often searches like this come up short. 

"In the bulk of cases they find nothing on these cold cases like this,” said Foran.

Foran said during this search they’re going to be very thorough. He said there are many different methods to searching an area like this.

"What they're going to be looking for out there is disturbances in the soil, soil that all of the sudden has a mound or a different coloration or looks like the plants have been disturbed,” said Foran.

He said if something is found and if it’s determined to be human remains, DNA and forensic science can come into play.

"The type of bone matters, you're generally going to try to test compact bone, that maybe you find in the long bone of the leg,” said Foran. "There's no guarantee, one way or the other, that you're going to get DNA from any bit of material.”

The ground conditions could also play a role in that as well.

"Part of what matters is the amount of moisture in the site. If it's swampland, things are going to degrade much faster,” said Foran.

Jon Carroll, Ph.D, is the Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Oakland University and he agrees.

"Everything from the acidity of the soil to the moisture content of the soil, that's going to have a big effect on the types of evidence recovered,” said Carroll.

He said it’s not a simple or quick process to make an identification.

"Well it can take months or years potentially, it really depends on the state of the crime scene,” said Carroll.

He said the most important thing to remember, working an investigation like this is not like the crime TV shows.

"Something that's been called the CSI effect. When you have a computer program, you scan something in an X-ray, a few algorithms process things and boom! There's your answer.  It just doesn't work like that,” said Carroll.