Origin a mystery for 2 human skulls found in McHenry County
Skull found in Bull Valley in McHenry County (Photo from Leanne See-Garcia / January 25, 2012)
This time, though, he could tell from its shape that the skull he discovered outside his Bull Valley home early Tuesday morning did not come from any four-legged creature.
After first mistaking the object for a dead bird, Tarren rushed back to his house to tell his mother that he'd missed his school bus and -- by the way -- had found a piece of a human skeleton.
"I was scared," Tarren, a sixth-grader at Parkland Middle School in McHenry, said Wednesday.
The boy's finding led to a deeper mystery when police arrived later Tuesday and came across a second human skull under a large pine tree about 75 feet away on the same property along Cherry Valley Road.
After cadaver dogs and dozens of officers from several departments spent much of Wednesday scouring the 6 1/2-acre property and found nothing else suspicious, Bull Valley police Chief Robert Vance said he was satisfied that there was no imminent danger to the community.
But origin of the skulls remained baffling, officials said.
Authorities said the bones, one of which was missing its jaw, are not believed to be tied to any open missing-persons investigation in McHenry County.
The skulls were clean -- with no skin, hair or blood on them -- and McHenry County Deputy Coroner Kim Bostic said it appears they had been exposed to the elements for "quite a while."
Officials even checked a nearby cemetery but found no grave sites that appeared to have been disturbed.
The skulls were shipped to Indianapolis on Wednesday to be examined by an anthropologist in hopes of determining how old they are, as well as the ages and sexes of people they came from and whether the skulls showed any signs of trauma or any other indication of how the people died.
Vance said there were no immediate plans to resume the search but that authorities might return to the property later, though possibly not until the snow melts and the ground thaws.
Tarren's mother, Leanne See-Garcia, said it appears that the skulls had just landed on her property, as if they had been tossed from a passing car.
After returning home Tuesday morning from driving her "alarmed" son to school, See-Garcia said she placed the first skull into a plastic bag and took it inside her garage.
She explained that it appeared the skull's placement on the ground had shifted slightly, and she was afraid an animal might carry it off.
See-Garcia said she called police and left a message, and that authorities arrived her at home several hours later, when the search commenced.
At its peak Wednesday, about 40 officers and four or five police dogs were canvassing the property, authorities said.
See-Garcia called her community -- about halfway between the cities of McHenry and Woodstock, the McHenry County seat -- "a nice quiet area."
She said the family, which includes Tarren's two older siblings, "didn't notice anything out of the ordinary" in the days leading up to Tarren's discovery. And the family's three dogs, who will often start barking at any unusual noise, were quiet throughout the previous night.
Tarren was circumspect about his finding Wednesday. Despite the bragging rights his middle school classmates might have afforded him, Tarren said he shared his discovery only with a couple of friends at school.
Their assessment of the news? "Scary," Tarren said.
Tribune reporters Robert McCoppin, Lawerence Synett and Liam Ford contributed.