Wednesday, June 25, 2008

While Prepping Their House For Sale, A Tooele, Utah Family Finds Human Skull In Their Attic - After Eight Years Of Occupancy

Here's a story which first broke on Monday June 23rd, 2008 which is gaining some traction. It seems like a family living in Tooele, Utah is having their home prepped for sale - and some workers replacing the roof found a human skull in the attic. Furthermore, this was discovered AFTER THE FAMILY HAD LIVED THERE FOR EIGHT YEARS. The latest stories are posted by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, and the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin. Here are some additional media stories:

June 24th KTVX Channel 4 report with video.

June 24th KSL Channel 5 report with video.

KTVX video embedded below:

Paul and Karen Dupaix have lived in their 1910-vintage Tooele home located near 200 West and 100 South with their children for the past eight years, but rarely go into the attic. The family was shocked when workers putting on a new roof Monday made a grisly discovery: a human skull between a wall and the point of the roof where the eaves meet.

Tooele Police Lt. Jorge Cholico said investigators are now trying to contact surviving family members of the late Rex Stutznegger, known as one of Tooele's first dentists, and his wife, Helen. The couple were the previous owners and had lived in the home for about 65 years.

While police said the skull had some hair and tissue attached, the jaw was missing. The skull is small, but police are unsure whether it belonged to a child or a small adult. The skull will now go to the Utah Department of State Antiquities and Archaeology to be identified. As an additional precaution, police are treating the case as a homicide, although they have no open cases of either unsolved murders or missing persons in the area. They also speculate that the original owner may have been interested in anthropology.

Update: On June 27th, KTVX reports preliminary investigation indicates that the man who built the home was an anthropologist and likely brought the skull back to Utah from an overseas expedition. The skull is possibly that of an American Indian. The skull is now being processed at the University of Utah's anthropology lab, but preliminary estimates say the skull is at least 200 years old.

Authorities used cadaver dogs and searched the property for more remains, but nothing was found. Attempts by the Tribune to reach survivors of Rex and Helen Stutznegger were unsuccessful Tuesday. The Stutzneggers do not appear to have been the original owners of the home. Census records show the late Rex Stutznegger living in Salt Lake City with his parents in 1920 and in 1930.

However, the KSL Channel 5 story offers more details. KSL reached the son of the Stutzneggers, who did not want to be identified. The son told KSL that he grew up there and would go into the attic, but he and another relative were shocked to hear about the discovery. He said, "I can just remember going out there for some family gatherings and like that. We'd just go out and have a barbecue and things in their backyard". The KSL story also reveals why the current owners never found the skull; it was in a sealed portion of the attic with no access.

The family is selling their home to move closer to her husband's new job in Lehi and they're now concerned that the discovery will deter buyers. Of course, some "targeted marketing" might be the answer here. Anthropologist's Hideaway, anyone? Abra-cadaver; instant sale!

Update #2: On July 2nd, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Ron Rood, an archaeologist with the Division of State History, said the broad shape of the skull and the grit left on the teeth are consistent with an American Indian diet, leaving archaeologists little doubt the skull belonged to someone of American Indian origin. Thy've also determined it was female. A sample from the skull was sent on July 1st to a radiocarbon laboratory in Florida, which within about 45 days will determine when the woman died.

In Utah, when American Indian remains are found, state law requires the seven tribal governments in Utah be notified for possible repatriation. Rood has contacted the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, and tribal governments will have the opportunity to claim the remains once lab results show how old the skull is. If none of the tribes claim the skull, it will be placed in a special state burial vault specifically set aside for American Indian remains, said Rebecca Nelson, research analyst for the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

In his Tribune-affiliated Salt Lake Crawler blog, Glen Warchol also discusses the story. However, he also takes the opportunity to level a cheap shot at the city of Tooele, stating that "they [the homeowners] probably ought to worry more about the 'location, location, location' rule that they violated by living in Tooele". Tooele is commonly the butt of jokes among Utah's progressive elite because of its proximity to the Tooele Army Depot, which is not known to be a bastion of environmental correctness. In addition, the elite believes that Tooele is located on the wrong side of the Oquirrh Mountains; the Wasatch Mountains are considered "sexier" and "more chic" that the much more proletarian-appearing Oquirrhs, which remained pockmarked on the Salt Lake side by the now-defunct Kennecott open-pit copper mine.

However, the approximately 25,000 residents of Tooele seem satisfied with the area. And even with the rising price of gas, Tooele still offers less-expensive housing that the over-priced, over-exuberant Salt Lake Valley housing market.

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