Team of anthropologists search Carter County scene

John Thompson • Jan 8, 2013 at 10:04 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Three anthropologists from the world famous University of Tennessee forensic anthropology program were on Gap Creek Road Tuesday to search for more clues to the identity and the cause of death of a body found here last week.

Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said his investigators and a team from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had already recovered the bones and other items during an initial search when the body was discovered last Wednesday. Mathes said the investigators were careful to remove only the evidence that was lying on the surface and not to disturb anything that was lying beneath the surface.

It fell to the UT team to recover the rest of the evidence on the surface, remove the leaf litter and go slightly below the surface, Mathes said. Fortunately, the remains had not been scattered and the area to be searched was along a slight ridge. The investigators also got a break with mild winter weather to make the search go easier and quicker. Mathes said he believed the team would complete their work in a single day.

Mathes said the team was led by Lee Meadows Jantz, who holds a doctorate. The other members of the team had their doctorates or were doctoral candidates, Mathes said.

The goal of the effort is to scientifically prove the identity of the person and to determine whether foul play was involved. A wallet containing identification documents of Zane Baxter Gervin II, 45, was found during the search by deputies last week.

“Mr. Gervin is a subject of interest to us because we found his ID here, and he is a missing person,” Mathes said.

Adequate dental records have not been found that could scientifically prove or disprove the remains were Gervin. Mathes is hoping there may be some clues in the bones, such as a past broken bone that was treated and for which there are medical records.

Mathes said the UT team found significant evidence during the first few hours it was on the scene. The team used a sifting device to gather clues from the soil. Mathes said the trained anthropologists can find small bones and other clues that would be overlooked by others. Mathes said other clues besides bones were found Tuesday, but he said he was not yet prepared to discuss the discoveries.

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