Department of Anthropology

Human Identification Laboratory

Daytime Phone Number
530-898-4029

After hours contact for law enforcement only
530-566-5520

The CSU, Chico, Human Identification Laboratory (CSU, Chico HIL) provides forensic anthropological services to law enforcement agencies and medical examiner’s offices in California. The laboratory receives between 80 and 100 cases each year. Requests for anthropological analysis include pathological consultation, identification, and trauma analysis. The HIL team is also called out for outdoor searches, exhumations and scene recoveries approximately 20 times per year. Additionally, the HIL houses a stable isotope prep lab to process human and animal samples for paleodietary research. Finally, our lab is active with bioarchaeological contract work and isotopic studies of prehistoric and historic populations (e.g., C & N isotopes of bone).

Mission Statement

The primary mission of the CSU, Chico HIL is to provide quality forensic anthropology services to state and federal law enforcement, medical examiners and attorneys in California. The HIL’s faculty’s forensic anthropological training enables us to contribute to medico-legal investigations in the following ways: (1) the search and recovery of human remains; (2) laboratory analyses to facilitate the positive identification of an unknown decedent; and (3) assistance with interpretations of cause and manner of death in the recently deceased. In these ways, the HIL aims to meet several of the University’s Strategic Priorities. First, the HIL aims to serve the educational, cultural, and economic needs of Northern California. Second, our lab believes in the importance of civic engagement and the institutional commitment to serving the public good.

History

The arrival of Dr. Turhon Murad in 1972 at CSU, Chico, saw the development of the academic and applied service of forensic anthropology in Northern California. The service was enhanced by the addition of Dr. P. Willey in 1989, Dr. Eric Bartelink in 2006, Dr. Colleen Milligan in 2010, and Dr. Ashley Kendell in 2017. Dr. Willey (retired 2017) and Dr. Bartelink are Fellows of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and Diplomates of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA). Dr. Milligan and Dr. Kendell are Members of AAFS. Dr. Kendell is also a registry Diplomate of the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. CSU, Chico is among the few programs in North America with three forensic anthropologists on the faculty. The forensic anthropology faculty, staff, and students at CSU, Chico have played an important role in assisting various sheriff, police and coroner’s departments, district attorneys, the California Department of Justice, and the FBI. 

Facilities

The Department of Anthropology’s physical anthropology facilities include the CSU, Chico, Human Identification Laboratory (CSU, Chico HIL), the Zooarchaeology Laboratories, and the Stable Isotope Preparation Laboratory. The HIL facility is on the ground floor of Plumas Hall. The laboratory is approximately 2500 square feet, and includes microscopy and photography stations, and osteometric equipment. The wet lab includes a standard autopsy sink, an examination table, a three-body mobile morgue, and a dermestid beetle colony. It includes a Hewlett Packard Faxitron x-ray cabinet with a digital radiographic processor. A 200 square foot secure evidence room is connected to the laboratory. The zooarchaeology laboratory is adjacent to the HIL and contains approximately 2,000 skeletons of nearly 700 different species of fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. In addition to being an important archaeological resource, the zooarchaeology lab has been extremely valuable for its role in identifying non-human skeletal remains believed to be of forensic significance.

CSU, Chico HIL Personnel

The CSUC-HIL is currently staffed by three full-time Chico State professors and one professor emeriti, who work collectively on search and recoveries as well as in-house laboratory analyses. The laboratory is run by our laboratory supervisor, Alex Perrone. Additionally, our current graduate students assist with all scene recoveries and some laboratory work. CSU, Chico HIL personnel include:

  • Eric Bartelink, PhD, D-ABFA
  • Ashley Kendell, PhD, D-ABMDI
  • Colleen Milligan, PhD
  • Alex Perrone, MA
  • P. Willey PhD, D-ABFA

Emeritus Faculty

P. Willey, Ph.D.: University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1982)
Dr. Willey is a physical anthropologist and professor emeritus with academic and research interests in skeletal biology, forensic anthropology, and anatomy. He has authored more than 100 publications on those and other topics. For more than 25 years, Dr. Willey taught a variety of courses in physical anthropology as well as forensic anthropology. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and certified as a Diplomate by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology; he served as an officer for the Board. In medical-legal applications, he has penned hundreds of forensic case reports, served as an external consultant for the Department of Defense’s MIA identifications, was Senior Anthropologist for the Regime Crimes Liaison Office’s investigation of Iraqi mass graves in 2004, visited North Korea in 2016 as a delegate to discuss return of Korean War MIAs, and received the 2018 T. Dale Stewart Award for lifetime contributions to the field.

In Memoriam

Turhon A. Murad, Ph.D.: Indiana University (1975)
Dr. Murad was a physical anthropologist with academic interests in skeletal biology, human evolution, and dermatoglyphics. He was the founding Director of the CSU, Chico Human Identification Lab and remained an active forensic anthropologist until his retirement from CSU, Chico in 2010 after thirty-eight years of teaching. He was a Full Member of the American Association of Physical Anthropology and Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Additionally, he was certified as a Diplomate by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. He served as officer of the ABFA for four years. He was a Consultant to the Nevada Division of Investigation in Carson City, NV and a Member of DMORT District IX. In addition to general physical anthropology, Professor Murad created the Certificate of Forensic Identification Program at CSU, Chico to offer curriculum related to forensic science. Furthermore, he taught police officers forensic anthropology through California’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Program. He also participated in offering recovery courses at Davis, Fairfield, and Sacramento, as well as at Quantico, VA.

The Turhon A. Murad Memorial Scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students is set up in his honor through the University Foundation.

Training

The laboratory provides hands-on opportunities and training in human skeletal biology for graduate students and undergraduate student interns, including reconstruction of fragmented and burned remains, skeletal analysis, techniques in identification, and the analysis of skeletal pathology and trauma. Graduate students regularly assist faculty in the search and recovery of forensically significant human remains for local and federal agencies. Additionally, since 2008, a summer workshop entitled Forensic Archaeology: Field Recovery Methods has been offered every other year to provide additional training for students and crime scene technicians in the location and recovery of human remains.

The CSU, Chico HIL also provides training to local law enforcement agencies and personnel. Training includes public lectures, field recovery methods, and workshops. Faculty are also certified instructors for California’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Homicide Courses, assisting in up to twelve courses a year throughout California.

Forensic Services – For Law Enforcement

The Human Identification Laboratory provides forensic anthropology services to state and federal law enforcement, medical examiners and attorneys. Forensic services include search and recovery of human remains, with the potential for additional laboratory analysis if remains are recovered. Laboratory analyses, performed in house, include skeletal analysis for the purposes of identification (establishing age-at-death, biological sex, height and ancestral affiliation) and trauma analysis. Our faculty can also serve as expert witnesses in court testimony. Our services assist the legal system in resolving criminal cases, missing persons cases, and providing closure to families. The laboratory provides these services directly to law enforcement, medical examiners and attorneys, and is not authorized to share information regarding specific case to the media or to the public. For assistance with forensic casework, please contact our laboratory supervisor, Alex Perrone (530-898-4029).

Recovery Services:

  • Search and recovery of human remains from outdoor scenes and fire scenes
  • Locating clandestine graves
  • Excavation and archaeological recovery and documentation

Human vs. Non-human identification:

  • Species identification through photos or in-person analyses

Laboratory Analyses:

  • Establishing biological profile for unidentified remains: Age, Sex, Ancestry, Stature
  • Trauma analysis
  • Isotopic analysis
  • Comparative medical radiography

Training:

  • Excavation methods
  • Human remains recovery
  • Bone identification

Bioarchaeology Services

In addition, the lab consults with CRM firms and other agencies in the analysis of human remains from archaeological contexts, including burial recovery, skeletal reconstruction, biological profile, paleopathological analysis, and stable isotope analysis. For more information, please contact us:

Human ID Lab Phone: (530) 898-4029
Human ID Lab Email:humanidlab@csuchico.edu


CSU-Chico Human Identification Laboratory
400 West First Street
Department of Anthropology, Butte #311
California State University, Chico
Chico, CA 95929-0400

Code of Conduct

The laboratory and its staff abides by the Code of Ethics and Conduct put forth by the Scientific Working Group for Forensic Anthropology (SWGANTH), which states that case information is confidential and should be released to the public only by the investigating agency.

For questions regarding current forensic cases contact the University's Public Affairs office at (530) 898-4143.