Two of the three women whose skeletal remains were found in a wooded area and crawl space in Southeast Washington last month were shot. The third woman suffered other injuries, District officials said Friday.
The determinations were based on an examination of the skeletal remains, said Roger A. Mitchell Jr., the District’s medical examiner. Mitchell, who ruled the deaths homicides, said the decomposition of the remains suggested the three women had probably been dead for at least a year.
Police and Mitchell said the identities of the women and when they were killed remain a mystery. The District’s forensic anthropologist is working to clean and assemble the skeletons and will use DNA to determine the ancestry — and hopefully the names — of the women. Mitchell said the FBI also has been tapped to work on the identifications, a process he said could take months.
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said authorities do not yet know whether the homicides are related. Newsham said in addition to clothing, some “personal items” were found at the scene, but he declined to say what those are.
The first set of remains was found April 25 by contractors working under the first floor of a three-story red brick apartment building in Congress Heights. A crew enlarging a crawl space and digging up a basement in the 100 block of Wayne Place SE to build additional apartments found what appeared to be the bones of a hand, skull and jawbone about 10 inches beneath the surface.
Using dogs to conduct a wider search, authorities on April 28 found two additional sets of remains in a shallow grave about 30 yards behind the residence in woods next to Mississippi Avenue.
The woods had been a play zone for children in the residential neighborhood about half a mile from the Anacostia Freeway, and the discoveries were unsettling to people who live in the area.
Mitchell said his office decided to announce what they had learned so far because he thought “it was important to provide updated information to the community and the public.”
Newsham said the city has posted a $25,000 reward for information that could help in an arrest in the case. He added that because there are three sets of remains, the reward is actually $75,000 for information in all three cases.
Mitchell said he was “not confident” that a facial reconstruction of the victims would be possible, citing damage to the skulls.
In the past, such efforts have helped authorities identify human remains.
Newsham said not all of the remains from the three women have been located. He asked residents who live in the neighborhood for patience as police continue to search.
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.