- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) - Forensic specialists in Texas are receiving volunteer help from other states as they work to identify the remains of 90 people discovered buried in a South Texas cemetery last year.

Authorities say the remains are those of immigrants who entered the country illegally and died during their journey into Texas.

Texas State University anthropologist Kate Spradley directs a project aimed at identifying the remains found at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Brooks County so their loved ones know what happened to them.

“This is the equivalent of having a mass disaster dropped off at our lab,” she said. “It needs to be done to give them a chance to be identified.”

The all-volunteer organization of forensic scientists, known as Operation Identification for the Reuniting Families, recently got more help from others in Indiana, New York and Ohio - all doing painstaking work to try to create biological profiles with height, age and ancestry that are done before DNA samples are taken, according to a story in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (http://bit.ly/1edcpf3 ).

The information is added to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Hundreds of immigrants’ have been recovered on the ranches in Brooks County in recent years. Smugglers guide immigrants through the brush trying to circumvent a Border Patrol highway checkpoint an hour’s drive north of the border. There is little water and the walk can take two or three days in punishing temperatures.

Amy Szen, 23 of Buffalo, New York, and Susan Sincerbox, a 21-year-old from Hammondsport, New York, offered to volunteer in San Marcos after Spradley visited their university to talk about the project. They both are studying anthropology, and Sincerbox admitted that before arriving she wondered if she’d be able to handle it.

“It’s a great opportunity to do some work that’s actually going to make a difference,” she said.

The volunteers work for free and some don’t even get class credit.

“It’s the most difficult thing I’ve done professionally, but it’s also the most professionally rewarding, working with people who care,” Spradley said.

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Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com

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