A California resident digging a hole in which to bury a pet cat who died discovered human remains buried in a shallow grave, authorities said.
Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies were called Saturday to the scene in Modesto, where they were able to confirm that the remains were human. Detectives were then called to the scene, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Department.
“Detectives worked throughout the evening to exhume the decomposing body,” the release said. “Detectives have not yet been able to identify the victim and an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause and manner of death.”
Fox 40 in Sacramento reported that investigators believe the remains had been buried in the home’s backyard for at least several months.
“When we have a case like this we investigate it as though it’s a homicide until we figure out that it’s maybe something different,” Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Letras told the news station. “So, the first part of the process is removing the body. Once the body is removed, it’s taken to our coroner’s facility where an autopsy will be done.”
Detective Cory Brown told NBC News that he could not tell from the remains that he saw whether the victim is male or female. The sex of the victim will be determined at autopsy.
The renter who was burying her cat is not a suspect, Brown told the network.
“She was a little bit shaken up,” Brown said. “This is not what she expected to see.”
The owner of the home is also not a suspect in the case, Brown said. Detectives are poring through the records of several renters who lived in the home over the past few years.
Families are also coming forward with the identities of missing loved ones with ties to the area, NBC News reported. Brown said one of those missing people, who he did not identify, vanished about five years ago and was living near the crime scene at that time.