Human remains were found off a Setauket nature trail in a mystery that detectives hope will be solved by a forensic anthropologist and the medical examiner's office, Suffolk police said Monday.
A hiker reported the skeletal remains about 4 p.m. Sunday on a walk and bike trail that starts off Gnarled Hollow Road, police said.
He found the remains at least 20 feet off the path, said Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, head of the homicide squad. The remains were not visible from the trail, but deer gathered there caught the hiker's attention, he said.
"He saw some animals near and he went to investigate," Beyrer said.
The human remains had been there for "some time" and it was not clear how the person died, the detective lieutenant said.
Also unclear was whether the person was a female or male, police said.
Beyrer declined to provide other details, including any key evidence found nearby and description of any clothing and identifiable characteristics of the person, such as color of hair.
"We really don't have that much," he said.
But he said a forensic anthropologist will also be called on to conduct an examination, along with the usual tests done by the medical examiner's office.
Detectives hope DNA can be obtained from the remains to help put a name to the remains.
"We're hoping that we can identify the person either from the medical examiner or the anthropologist," he said.
"Hopefully, we'll determine how long that person's been there and how that person died."
Suffolk authorities in the past have tapped forensic anthropologists for cases with extreme decomposition. These experts can find clues, such as insect larvae, to determine when the person was killed and study the remains to find gender and approximate age.
In 1993, the Suffolk medical examiner's office sent the head of a man to a forensic expert in Tennessee to reconstruct his face. He had been fished out of the Great South Bay three years before and had three bullets in him.
Detectives ask anyone with information on the Setauket remains to call 631-852-6395 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.