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University bone expert a key part of death investigation

Anthropology professor Kate Blue assisting police

Anthropology prof's skills help police to identify bones.

By Dan Nienaber, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 10/27/2011]

Kate Blue in her labWithout the help of Kate Blue, a small collection of bones belonging to Matt Albrecht might still be mixed with a pile of animal bones waiting to be identified.

Somehow the body of Albrecht, who was 26 when he was last seen alive in April 2010, ended up in or near a creek east of Mankato. The area is also an animal bone yard that is filled with the remains of cows, deer, birds and a variety of small animals.

Investigators have searched the area a few times now. Each time Blue, a Minnesota State Mankato anthropology professor, has been by their side, helping them separate human bones from animal bones while they’re still in the field.

“She’s been with us the whole time,” said Capt. Rich Murry of the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Department. “There are a large number of bones in the area. If we had to collect all the bones out there, we would have sacks full to go through.”

Investigators weren’t able to confirm Albrecht was dead until after a dog brought a leg bone out of the wooded ravine area south of Highway 83 and east of Highway 22. Blue was able to confirm the bone belonged to a human.

That was December. More of Albrecht’s bones, along with his wallet and cellphone, were found when the area was searched in May. It wasn’t until then that a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension DNA test was used to confirm the leg bone belonged to Albrecht. Additional bones have been found during other searches, including one that took place recently.

Albrecht’s skull and most of the bones from his torso, which could provide clues that would help investigators determine how he died, have not been found. Blue has a couple of theories to explain why those bones weren’t found near Albrecht’s personal items.

The creek and ravine has flooded four times from heavy snow and rains since Albrecht went missing, she said. The way water flows through the area could also explain why there are so many animal bones. Water flow could have separated Albrecht’s skull from the rest of the bones and sent it floating toward the river.

It’s also possible that a dog pulled Albrecht’s upper body away from the creek, Blue said. So far the search has been focused next to the creek, near the spot where most of the evidence has been found, and down stream.

Albrecht’s family believes he was murdered, and wants his death categorized as a murder.

Blue said she knows the investigators she has worked with want answers, too.

For the complete Free Press story, see Thursday's print edition, or go to the e-edition at

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