5 Skeletal Remains: Do Arizona Desert Bones Belong To Drug Traffickers?

By Philip Ross on June 5, 2013 10:27 AM EDT

five skeletal remains
Five skeletal remains, like the ones pictured here in a cave in Lalibela, Ethiopia, were found in an Arizona desert. Personal effects found on the skeletons indicate that the five victims were from Mexico or Central America. (Photo: Reuters)

Five skeletal remains were uncovered in the Arizona desert about 130 miles south of Phoenix. Border Patrol agents chanced upon the skeletons late last month. Police say the deaths are suspicious, and have pointed to homicide as a cause of death for the five skeletal remains found in Arizona.

According to the International Business Times, the area where the five skeletal remains were found, about 12 miles northwest of the Indian settlement of Sells on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, is a main artery for drug smugglers coming from Mexico and Central America. 

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Newsmax reports that the five skeletal remains have broken bones that wouldn't have occurred after death, indicating that the victims were mostly likely beaten or shot before they were discarded in the dry Arizona desert. Personal effects found on the remains, including currency, suggest the victims were from Mexico or Central America.  

"We are treating it as a likely homicide," Pima County Chief Medical Examiner Gregory Hess told Reuters. "However, we don't know how those injuries were inflicted yet, and whether or not those injuries were blunt force injuries that caused the bones to be traumatized or were gunshot injuries."

The exact time of death, the ages and the sex of the five victims have yet to be established, but investigators believe the remains could have been drying in the desert for up to a year.

According got the U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center, or NDIC, Arizona is one of the primary arrival zones for drugs (mostly marijuana) entering the U.S. from Mexico. The NDIC notes that 42 percent of all marijuana seizures along the entire Southwest Border took place along the Arizona-Mexico border. Other drugs seized along this route are methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

The Tohono O'odham Reservation, where authorities found the five skeletal remains, sits on this border. Many drug smugglers coming from Mexico use tunnels dug underneath the Arizona-Mexico seam.

The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies in San Diego, Calif., reports that over the 10-year period from 2001 to 2009, there were more than 20,000 killings associated with drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. "These groups have perpetrated increasingly brazen, spectacular acts of violence that have resulted in thousands of deaths," the center notes.

Still, even though the drug trafficking business is a violent, illicit enterprise, the main cause of death for drug smugglers crossing the Arizona desert is heat exposure.

Read more from iScience Times:

Shallow Grave Off Freeway; Unidentified Remains Discovered Off Freeway 105 In California

Possible 9/11 Victim Remains Discovered 11 And A Half Years After Terror Attack

Cleopatra's Sister Murdered By Jealous Queen; Remains Reportedly Unearthed In Turkey

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