Remains of four-year-old boy dumped in a trash bag are identified after more than 30 years

The victim has been identified as four-year-old Derrick Burton

Andrea Blanco
Saturday 24 June 2023 00:14 BST
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A human skull found more than three decades ago in California has been confirmed to be that of a four-year-old boy who went missing in 1991.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) said in a press release on Thursday that the remains were positively identified with the help of genealogy.

On 27 October 1991, a hunter discovered a human skull, which did not have its jaw or teeth, in a rural area of Mentone. At the time, the department’s homicide unit took leadership of the investigation and conducted searches in the neighbouring areas.

Although no other remains were recovered, authorities found a torn plastic trash bag with a decomposition odour and child clothing inside. It was determined through an autopsy that the victim was between four and eight years old, but the medical examiner was unable to determine a cause or manner of death.

The investigation stalled for years until last year, when the remains were sent to a DNA sequencing and genomics laboratory.

Results obtained in February suggested that the victim had distant relatives located in Houston, Texas. The family members were contacted by the SBSD and agreed to submit their DNA for testing.

“With the assistance of the Riverside, CA and Houston, TX FBI offices, Patricia Clark was identified as the decedent’s mother,” the department said.

Ms Clark reported her four-year-old son Derrick Burton missing in 1991.

Further DNA testing confirmed that Ms Clark was a 100per cent parental match to the human remains of the child.

The sheriff’s department has reopened an investigation into the circumstances that led to Derrick’s death. Anyone with information is asked to contact the SBSO’s special investigations unit at (909) 890-4904, or submit anonymous tips at

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