A West Chicago woman who is an avid collector of animal bones thought she had come across a nice addition for her collection while on a walk through the woods last week, but then she spotted the gold dental filling.
"My first reaction was -- because I do collect animal bones -- that it was just another bone," said 51-year-old Kathy Stadtfeld. "I saw the teeth, and I said 'These don't look like animal teeth.'"
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Stadfeld was with a friend on a walk in the woods behind the West Chicago Park District building, 157 W. Washington St., when they came across a pile of dirt in an empty lot and spotted the human remains on Sept. 23.
The West Chicago Police Department and DuPage County coroner's office both got involved in the case after Stadfeld reported her find, and authorities determined the remains were at least 100 years old. Their investigation revealed that the bones had been dug up from an unmarked grave in an Aurora cemetery.
Stadtfeld said there were about 100 individual bones in the pile of dirt, a clump of long black hair, an old shoe from around the turn of the 19th century and metal parts from a casket.
"A section of the teeth that I picked up had a gold filling in it," she said. "I didn't realize they were human until I found the tooth with the gold filling. I said, 'We need to go to the police.'"
The coroner's office was called to the scene on the 24th as the West Chicago police department originally treated the find as a crime scene, but the coroner took a look at the bones and quickly realized they were historic, said West Chicago Police Chief Laz Perez.
The investigation concluded that a worker who maintains cemeteries in both West Aurora and West Chicago accidentally dug up an unmarked grave at the downtrodden Calvary Cemetery in Aurora and dumped the dirt in a West Chicago lot.
"Sometimes they share dirt from one cemetery to another," Perez said.
Perez said the coroner's office contacted the West Chicago Historical Society, who helped in the investigation of where the bones came from.
DuPage County deputy coroner Aden Naka said the bones are likely around 100 years old.
"It's not an investigative case. It was simply a digging mishap," she said. "The situation was recognized very quickly."
Authorities do not expect to identify the bones, but are confident that they have pinpointed the unmarked location where they were dug up from in the cemetery near the intersection of Route 31 and Indian Trail Road.
Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli said his department was not involved in the investigation. Although there will not be charges filed in the case, Stadtfeld said she was disturbed by the disregard for the bones and hopes they will be put back where they came from.
West Chicago police agreed, and said they are working on returning the bones to the Aurora cemetery.
"Our biggest issue right now is making sure that those bones get reburied properly," Perez said.