Baylor students begin somber task in Brooks County

Forensic students exhume bodies of unidentified immigrants buried in cemetery

Image Courtesy: Texas State University Forensic Anthropology Center

FALFURRIAS – Teams of forensic students at Baylor University arrived in Brooks County on Saturday to begin the somber task of exhuming bodies of unidentified immigrants buried in the Falfurrias Cemetery.

"We believe most are undocumented immigrants who crossed the border unsuccessfully," said Dr. Lori Baker, a noted physical anthropologist and assistant professor of anthropology at Baylor University.

Baker and her students did similar work last summer at a cemetery in Del Rio for later examination and analysis at the lab on campus.

Related: Students on mission to ID human remains near border

Their mission in Falfurrias will involve exhuming more than 50 grave sites through May 28.

Brooks County has experienced a record number of deaths last year, with 129 bodies recovered on area ranches.

When told how many had died, Baker last year called the situation there "a humanitarian crisis."

Baker said she now will work on identifying as many as possible.

"We will do the exhumations and then do a biological profile based on the skeletal remains and we'll do DNA and DNA comparisons with families who filed missing person reports," Baker said.

Baker said she and her students hope to give them closure, by returning their loved ones' remains for burial in their home countries.

She said their work will be at no cost to Brooks County, and their expenses will be out of their pocket.

However, Baker said in return, the Baylor students will get valuable real-life experience as they prepare for careers using their forensic skills.

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.

About the Author:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.