Medical examiners explain process of identifying missing man's r - Tucson News Now

Medical examiners explain process of identifying missing man's remains

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

New details emerge tonight in the case of a missing man who's remains were found at a local construction site.

Tucson police have identified the victim as Christopher Mazzarella, who would have been 51 today.

Mazzarella was reported missing back in 2009. His remains were discovered by construction workers at the old De Anza drive-in theater last year.

Thanks to technology, officials have been able to put a face to those remains. Tonight we are learning more about the man behind the mugshot. Friends who knew him say this is not the Christopher Mazzarella they knew.

"Oh my god, I knew he was homeless. Heard two years ago he was homeless. I was devastated by it.  I found myself looking at every homeless person on the street. Somehow I thought if I could find him I could help him."

Friends describe him as a talented opera singer who worked for a local theater company.

For the Chief Medical Examiner's Office, the job is much tougher. All they had was skeletal remains to work with. No face, but the bones hold many clues.

"The bulk of the exam is done by our forensic pathology staff.  They will examine the remains. They will work solely with the bones.  They will re-assemble the remains, document missing portions, look for evidence of trauma."

Everything from age to height, gender and ethnicity can be determined through the remains.

What's harder is looking for a cause of death.

"We were not able to determine a cause of death based on our exam because they were skeletal remains but the conditions in which they were found were suspicious."

"it's tragic. He sang so beautifully. Such a waste. Just a real waste."

Police are calling this an open homicide investigation.  We asked the medical examiners office why it took almost a year to identify these remains. Officials say, with no identity, you are comparing the DNA to thousands of names in a national database and that can take some time.

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