OLD FORGE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — While the Robert Baron search intensifies, a discovery of human remains Wednesday can hopefully lead to long over-due answers.
The search for Robert Baron of Old Forge who went missing in 2017 had a recent break.
A discovery after an extensive search may come with answers.
“We have the potential to help potentially identify this person. Whether it’s somebody that’s brand new or somebody like Robert Baron that potentially has been missing for six years, to be able to potentially provide closure to the family if that’s who it turns out to be. That’s a rewarding feeling to me,” said Hannah Skropits, a graduate student at Mercyhurst University.
When remains were uncovered near Pagnotti Park, professionals on outdoor scene recovery were called in, graduate students of Mercyhurst University’s Department of Applied Forensic Sciences.
“I was sent pictures to evaluate whether they were human or not and determine that they were human, and so that’s when they called us to come in,” said Dennis Dirkmaat, chair for the Department of Applied Forensic Sciences at Mercyhurst University
“We do what’s called a straight-line pedestrian search where essentially we identify what we believe to be the borders of the scene. You know, how far the evidence is extended. In this case, it was pretty far. It was very scattered,” said Elizabeth Hagan, a graduate student at Mercyhurst University.
They helped search by using techniques to overcome obstacles that come with older crime scenes such as layers of leaves.
“We were just there to kind of make sure that there was nothing missed,” said Hagan.
The bones were brought back to Mercyhurst to clean, analyze, and present a biological profile such as age and gender.
The analysis can take one to two weeks, followed by a written report that explains every step that was taken by the team of graduates – this can take more than a month.
“We’ll write up that report so that if the case does go to trial or develop into anything else, we’ll be able to have that report,” said Skropits.
These students help crack cases all around the state of Pennsylvania because of this type of hands-on learning.
“What we tell the students is as soon as they step foot on Mercyhurst’s campus and they’re in our department, then they’re basically ready to go,” said Dirkmaat.
“By the time you leave, you are a professional. You are treated like one in the department, you are treated like one on scene, and it really gives you a good gauge as to what it would be like to live and work in this field,” said Hagan.
You can find more information on Mercyhurst University’s Department of Applied Forensic Sciences online.