A death investigation is under way after a dredging company working at Bayou Caddy made a shocking discovery underneath the brackish waters — a human skull.
At around noon on Friday, the Department of Marine Resources called on Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk after work crews handed over what officials believe to be a “mostly, well-preserved human skull,” Faulk said.
A member of the work crew said the remains were found amongst several yards of debris collected in the dredgers' cutter head, a rotating tool used to loosen and dislodge the soil beneath the water while dredging.
“It was a little shocking,” the crew member said. “We typically find all kinds of trash clogged up in the cutter, but not human remains.”
Work in the area, the crew member said, is being carried out to help deepen and widen the waterways to assist with boat travel.
The cutter head is generally cleaned out every few hours, the worker said, making it easy to determine where exactly the skull was picked up.
He said his company would have been digging only about six to eight hundred feet away from the shore at the mouth of the bayou’s channel going out to the Bay of St. Louis by the Silver Slipper Casino when the skull would have been removed from the water and caught in the cutter head's suction.
It is unknown if the skull was close to the surface of the ground or buried deep within the dirt, as crews were dredging up to 12 feet deep in that particular area, the worker said.
Other items such as a piece of tarp, some rope, and pieces of rebar were also among the discard pile where the skull was discovered.
DMR halted work in the area on Friday; however crew members say they were allowed back into the specific work zone some time on Saturday.
DMR spokeswoman Charmaine Schermund said the coroner’s office will take over the investigation into the remains’ origin.
That investigation is now under way, Faulk said.
“The skull has been carefully packaged and sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab located in Pearl,” Faulk said.
Experts are now tasked with determining the age, gender and approximate time the skull may have been submerged in the water.
Faulk says he is also hoping DNA can be extracted from the bone to help identify the deceased.
“Someone is missing a family member,” Faulk said. “Boy, it sure would be nice if we could identify who this is and give the family some closure.”
"It’s just unbelievable it was even found,” Faulk said. “You have a better chance at winning the lottery every day of the week than finding any type of human remains in that water.”