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Workers find human bones in ceiling of century-old building

By DAVID ARMON

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Workers renovating a century-old building found a cache of human bones in a ceiling, and the medical examiner said Thursday the limbs may have been sawed from the bodies of more than one person.

The bones, discovered Wednesday, appear to be several years -- if not several decades -- old, said Dr. Nicholas Forbes, Monroe County medical examiner.

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'This kind of thing is challenging,' Forbes said at a news conference during which legs, arms and a shoulder blade bones were displayed.

The bones were found Wednesday by workers in a 19th century building in a rundown block of downtown Rochester.

'I was cleaning the floor up and I just found some bones,' said Jeff Abel, 31. 'It was the bottom of the leg with a foot, and I could see the skin and the fingernail attached. It kind of shocked me.'

Police were called to the building, which was originally built as a house by Bernard Haag, a German immigrant butcher, sometime between 1857 and 1875.

Homicide detectives said the condition of the bones indicated foul play.

'It's probably going to be one of the most interesting investigations we've conducted in a long, long time,' said Maj. William Mayer, commander of the police Criminal Investigation Division.

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Forbes said a preliminary examination of the bones revealed that they had been cleanly cut or sawed. The medical examiner said the lack of a skull or rib cage will make it difficult to determine the sex or race of the victim or victims.

'The possibility exists at this time that there may be more than one individual,' Forbes said, explaining that some of the bones appear to be duplicate body parts.

Dr. William C. Rodriguez, a forensic anthropologist with the Onondaga County medical examiner's office in Syracuse, has agreed to help determine how old the people were when they died and when they died, Forbes said.

Edward Monroe, one of the workers excavating the building, said the bones were likely sealed in the space between the first and second floors since the structure was built.

'The floor was all intact and it had hardwood floor on it, and the plaster has been there ever since the building has been built. It doesn't look like it has been touched,' Monroe said.

The building where the remains were found -- on the corner of East Main and Scio streets -- housed a massage parlor, a barber shop, and various other businesses before being condemned in the 1970s.

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The business storefronts were built around a Victorian-style house seven decades ago. Work began earlier this year to demolish the storefronts while saving the historic house for use as a restaurant or office complex.

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