Deputies near Joplin, Missouri, say a human scalp was discovered at a campground on June 20. According to the Joplin Globe, the scalp had braided human hair on it, but the color of hair and sex of the person it came from had yet to be determined.
The gruesome remains were sent to the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab for analysis. Lieutenant Andy Pike with the Newtown County Sheriff’s Office told Heavy that it may take six to eight months for the state crime lab to have results because they go in order of the receipt of evidence. Newton does not have its own crime lab.
The scalp was found by the owner of Holly Haven Campground in Newton County near the shore of Shoal Creek, according to local news outlet KSN.
Cadaver dogs were brought to the site and led law enforcement to the water, which drivers searched, but no evidence was found, according to the Associated Press. Authorities believe the scalp may have washed up onto the shore or been carried there by an animal, KSN reported.
Sheriff Chris Jennings told KSN, “It could have been carried for a ways by an animal, we just don’t know. We searched the area, we’re sending it to the lab to see if there is any DNA that we can obtain from it.”
KSN reported that Jennings wouldn’t discuss whether he thought the scalp severed from someone’s head was related to any crime in the area.
He told them instead, “Hopefully, we get it to the lab, we get a better idea of what’s going on with it.”
The Scalp Was Only a Bit Deteriorated & Families of Missing People Are Asking if It Could be Their Loved One
Pike told Heavy, “I’ll be honest, I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my 29-year career. This is the first time I’ve ever just seen a scalp with hair. Usually, it’s attached to a body,” he said.
Pike said the scalp had deteriorated some, but it wasn’t “terribly bad.”
Like Jennings, Pike is hesitant to speculate because they have no scientific information. According to Pike, it’s possible it’s not even real. He said it seemed real to him and two or three other people, but they’re not sure because it’s such an unusual finding.
Pike said families of missing people have already reached out to the sheriff’s office, wondering if the scalp could belong to their loved one.
Pike said he can’t “give them any kind of hope” until there is some information from the lab.
Joplin Has a High Crime Rate & Missouri Has Bears & Mountain Lions, but It’s Still a Mystery How the Scalp Ended up at the Campground
According to City-Data, Joplin’s crime rate is 1.9 times greater than the U.S. average. It was higher than in 96.6% of U.S. cities in 2017. Neighborhood Scout reported that the crime rate in Joplin is much higher than the surrounding towns and is higher than the overall rate of Missouri.
A person has a 1 in 156 chance of being a victim of violent crime in Joplin, according to Neighborhood Scout.
On the other hand, black bears and mountain lions are carnivorous large animals that live in Missouri. But attacks by these animals are rare.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation:
Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare. In North America, roughly 25 fatalities and 95 nonfatal attacks have been reported during the past 100 years. Black bear attacks occur at higher rates, 50 fatalities in the past 100 years. It is important to keep these numbers in perspective. For every one person killed by a black bear, 45 people are killed by domestic dogs, 120 by bee stings and 250 by lightning strikes.