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Skull testing doesn't prove it's Rubano's, but case closed

Feb 8, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Examinations of a human skull discovered near Popo Agie Falls have brought inconclusive results.

Officials had hoped the skull could be identified positively as that of Clay Rubano, who was reported missing in 2007.

"We sent it to the Sorenson (Forensics) laboratory in Salt Lake City for DNA testing and an analysis because they did the analysis on the original bones found and determined them to be Clay Rubano's," Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan said. "But the skull that we sent in has been weathered and aged too much, and they were unable to extract DNA for comparison."

Rubano, 46, went missing Nov. 11, 2007. Evidence suggested the experienced hiker may have fallen and suffered hypothermia.

Despite the inconclusive report, McAuslan said his office at this time has closed the Rubano case.

"Due to the proximity of the skull's location with the other bones and the examination of the skull determined that it's male, (and) race and age is consistent with Clay, I am saying in all probability that this is the skull of Clay Rubano," McAuslan said. "At this particular point, it is closed as far as we are concerned. That doesn't eliminate the possibility that if at some point more information arises we don't open it up."

A hiker found the partial skull last August about a mile above the falls in the Wind River Mountain Range near Lander. The falls is an estimated two-mile hike from Bruce's parking lot.

A team, including members of the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, the Fremont County Coroner's Office and the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management archaeologists, recovered the skull the next day.

The find was about a mile from where searchers on June 8, 2008, discovered some of Rubano's personal effects and bone fragments near Sheep's Bridge.

McAuslan originally sent the skull to the University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology for an examination. A report from UW suggests the skull belonged to a white man between 40 and 55 years old.

According to the Coroner's verdict and case docket, UW's report shows "reasonable congruence" between the skull and Rubano.

"The university did computer photographic comparison overlays on the skull and pictures of Clay, and they can't say 100 percent that they are matches," McAuslan said. "They are close enough that they can't certainly rule it out, though."

McAuslan said the skull was returned to Rubano's family.

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