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OGDEN — Two days have passed since investigators searching for missing Ogden teenager Alexis Rasmussen reported finding human remains in rural Morgan County.
The North Ogden Police Department issued a statement Thursday stating there was no new information or timeline for when a finding from the medical examiner could be expected. There was no update Friday, but a professor of criminal justice gives KSL some insight as to why the perceived delay.
The girl's family reported that they are likewise unaware of any developments in the case.
"We just want an answer so that we can begin the grieving process and then the healing process — from which we will never recover," Alexis' uncle, Wade Reed, said.
Expert explains why the delay for information
Russ Dean, assistant professor of criminal justice at Weber State University, said there are a number of reasons why the remains have not been identified.
"If there's a delay it could be based upon not enough information," he said. "It may be based upon insufficient records, it may be based on any number of factors that delay that identification coming forward."
One of those factors is the state of the body. Dean said the condition of the remains, which has not been discussed by police, could definitely impact identification. Dental records, fingerprints and DNA evidence can all lead to answers, but also take time to find and process.
We all want results right away. In today's knowledge of Hollywood that's on television every night, there's kind of a common misconception that it happens immediately, that there's some lightning bolt that hits the case and solves it immediately. That's not how it is.
–Russ Dean, assistant professor of criminal justice
The notion that the remains could be identified through photographs or by family members "couldn't be further from the truth," he said.
"We all want results right away," Dean said. "In today's knowledge of Hollywood that's on television every night, there's kind of a common misconception that it happens immediately, that there's some lightning bolt that hits the case and solves it immediately. That's not how it is."
The medical examiner is also charged with determining the cause and manner of death, and their findings are often a large part of the criminal investigation. It can help build a more solid case and potentially provide more leads and more evidence.
"Having patience in these cases helps us along and helps the criminal investigators along and helps the public understand that looking for the best answer is the best policy," Dean said.
Delay may be for strategic reasons
There is also a possibility, according to Dean, that identification may have been made, but not released for strategic reasons.
"Another thing that should be considered … would be that the results of the identification might be a key piece of information in the investigation," Dean said. "That investigation, that key information that cannot be released, may be the linchpin in the case that helps them locate the individual responsible for the death."
Many of the answers are with the body, and Dean said that once remains are collected, they become a crime scene in and of themselves. He raised the possibility that they don't belong to Alexis Rasmussen at all.
"The most dangerous thing an investigator and medical examiner could do is develop tunnel vision and chase red herrings," he said. "It really doesn't matter who the person is, it doesn't matter the circumstances of the case, the medical examiner has to take as long as needed.
Rasmussen may have left house while babysitting
Police are looking into whether a missing 16-year-old girl briefly left the house where she was babysitting on the night that she was last seen.
Alexis Rasmussen was last seen Sept. 10. The night of her disappearance, she was babysitting for Eric and Dea Millerberg. She texted her mother around 11:30 p.m. and said the couple hadn't returned home.
Police tell the Standard-Examiner they received information that Alexis Rasmussen might have left the home of Eric and Dea Millerberg around 11 p.m. or midnight on Sept. 10, "either to meet a friend at a nearby school or for a ride home." A source in the investigation tells the paper if she did leave, it's unknown whether she returned to the Millerberg's home.
She reportedly texted a boy around 12:30 a.m., but he said they never met up that night. Police say they are looking at quite a few people she might have gone to meet.
The girl's mother said the teenager had run away in the past, but usually kept in touch with family and friends. Police are treating it as a missing persons case.
On Wednesday, police and prosecutors announced that, acting on a tip from a confidential informant, the investigation led them to human remains. No details on the sex or condition of the body were released.
No suspects have been named. Both Eric and Dea Millerberg were arrested in unrelated cases around the time of the girl's disappearance.
Eric Millerberg was arrested earlier for investigation of violating his parole for alleged drug use, and Dea Millerberg was arrested a couple of days later and charged with two counts of falsely obtaining a prescription, a third-degree felony.