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Cold Case: Everett Ruess
With a bunch of bone bits, some historic portraits, and computer imaging, two forensic anthropologists helped solve the Southwest’s greatest mystery.

Was the fragmented skeleton found in a crevice on Utah’s Comb Ridge actually Everett Ruess? To help answer that question, University of Colorado at Boulder forensic anthropologists Dennis Van Gerven and Paul Sandberg got to work, CSI style. Their first task was to stabilize the very fragile pieces of bone—especially skull fragments, which had been left exposed to the elements. Luckily, excavators found three fragments of the face—two of them with teeth still in place—tightly embedded and protected in the dirt. They also found an in-tact mandible. After months of painstaking work, the team's results are compelling. “Considering all of the biological and historical evidence together, if this isn’t Ruess, we’ve got an enormous coincidence on our hands,” says Van Gerven.