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Texas crime lab helping to crack the case of a human skull found in a local family’s basement

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Spring Grove, Minn. (WXOW) -Southwest of La Crosse in Minnesota's bluff country sits Spring Grove.

It's a small town of less than 2,000, known mostly for its rolling fields and clean horizons.

In 2005, the quiet town was shaken, when a human skull was found in one family's basement.

A workman made the gruesome discovery while cleaning a basement fire pit in the house.

"It was just unbelievable. Paul Folz, the chief of police called and said do you have people working in your basement on the firepit? Yes. He said well, 'they found a human skull way in the back.' You've gotta be kidding, a human skull?" said Jocelyn Rostad, the homeowner.

Built in 1893, the home has had many owners over the years. Joycelyn Rostad has lived there since the early 1970s.

"They had put up a wall. The fireplace is set back so they put up a wall, and that was a closet. Well, when my oldest daughter graduated from high school and it was just Lynn, then we took the wall out and started to use the fireplace," said Rostad.

Joycelyn has her own theories about how the skull may have ended up there. "There was a doctor that owned this house and he had patients and maybe he was just doing it for research."

Spring Grove Police Chief Paul Folz has his own theories about how the skull may have ended up there.

"We think that it might have been somebody who was just passing through. Might have come off the train, cause the train ran through here at that time. Might have been sick, or something because at the time the property behind me was the doctor's office," said Folz.

Now with the help of groundbreaking forensic technology, a lab in Texas hopes to help find answers.

"When the standard methods that people use fail, they can come to Othram. We work to help analyze the crime scene to identify victims to identify suspects in a crime, and we use that entirely new methodology," said David Mittleman, CEO, Othram Inc.

He's referring to using genetic data to solve crimes.

"We'll proceed to do genetic testing to see what we can learn. Where in the world is our skull from? Then if we discover that we can move even further, if we can determine if there are living relatives or anyone remotely related to that person who's skull was found there. So that's kind of our process," said Mittleman.

Despite the creepiness of finding a skull in her home, Joycelyn says her home is just like any other but with a unique history.

"There some people who say you live in a haunted house or are there ghosts in there? No. This is a lovely home and it doesn't bother me in the least. It's just part of the history of this house."

It's important to note that the Rostad's were never suspects in this investigation.

Othram's CEO says it could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to possibly find out more about the skull and what happened.

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Candace Price

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