HOUSTON -- The human bones discovered on the demolition site of an old condominium complex were deliberately buried there, investigators say, deepening the mystery of what happened decades ago at a construction project just off Memorial Drive.
Demolition workers discovered the bones Wednesday on what once was the site of the Park Memorial condominiums near the intersection of Memorial and Detering, about a mile east of Memorial Park. A team of anthropologists spent Thursday sifting through soil, discovering human ribs and a leg bone before calling off their archeology dig late in the afternoon.
Investigators believe the remains were buried sometime in the late 70s or early 80s when the condominiums were built. They suspect foul play may be involved, because the bones were positioned next to a retaining wall on an older building and underneath a slab from the more recent construction, suggesting someone deliberately buried the bones next to the wall sometime before the slab was poured.
"We know that some people are thinking maybe it’s a bum that died or something, a transient. [But] it doesn’t appear that way, because of the location of the bones," Sgt. Richard Rodriguez of HPD Homicide said.
When investigators and a team from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science returned to the scene Thursday, they found the person’s ribs. They found portions of the skull, which may help them identify the remains.
The discovery happened within walking distance of a popular jogging path along Memorial Drive. The neighborhood, called Rice Military, has changed dramatically since the body was apparently buried, evolving from narrow streets of small, older homes to a gentrified enclave of upscale townhouses. Still, people in the neighborhood were surprised – and a little shaken – to learn about the gruesome discovery.
"This is the first time I’m hearing about this, and it’s alarming," said Linda Novelo, who is building a home nearby.
The bizarre discovery is just the latest development in the story of a troubled piece of property. The Park Memorial condominiums apparently started developing structural several problems years ago, but they went undetected until a resident trying to sell his home called for an inspection. The city government hung orange tags around the buildings ordering residents to evacuate, fearing the condominiums would collapse into their underground parking garage.
"This was a property that, when my wife and I were married, I carried her right over the threshold," said Dan Seluk, who owned one of the condominiums.
The buildings sat vacant for years, apparently occupied by derelicts and vandals who stripped away everything from wiring to air conditioning units. Demolition workers started tearing down the buildings a couple of weeks ago.
"It’s just the strangest thing," Sulak said. "You almost feel the place was cursed from the beginning."
The condominium’s developer has gone out of business, which will make it difficult for police to identify contractors who had access to the site.
Investigators fielded phone calls from people wondering whether the remains might belong to missing relatives, but police say medical examiners must identify the remains.
"I hope it provides some conclusion for somebody," Sulak said. "Maybe if this happened 30 years ago, maybe they can find what happened and put the whole thing to rest for somebody."
Anyone with information on this case is urged to call the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.