On TV crime shows, DNA evidence solves the crime in about 40 minutes.
Not so in the day-to-day life of homicide detectives, forensic pathologists and at least one mother of a man missing since July 24 as she struggles with cancer and hopes for answers and solace in the short time she has left.
“On TV, it takes them no time to get an answer,” said Jennifer Clark, whose son Chris “Critter” Clark went missing nine months ago.
On July 24, he had contact with his family in Reseda and, soon after that, he vanished. He was described as 5-foot-9, about 175 pounds, with a 1-inch scar on the back of his head.
The only thing investigators have to go on is that his car was found in the parking lot near the Black Bear Restaurant, on Valencia Boulevard near Magic Mountain Parkway, several days after he disappeared.
On the morning of Dec. 5, deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station responded to reports of remains found in the Santa Clara River wash.
It was a skull.
Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Homicide Bureau were called in.
Lt. Derrick Alfred said detectives hoped DNA or dental records would reveal not only the identity of the deceased, but also what happened.
The missing man’s mother sent them not only samples of her own DNA but also sent them two of her son’s teeth.
The teeth were found among Chris Clark’s personal items examined by family members.
“I picked up all his belongings, all his stuff in storage,” Jennifer Clark said. “His teeth were in a little dental bag.”
So, when she heard from detectives that the skull “had a pretty good set of teeth on it,” she believed she would be close to getting some answers.
“There is no apparent sign on the skull that would say it was a homicide,” Alfred said in December.
“There’s no bullet hole, no sign of injury,” he said. “We’re hoping DNA or dental records will tell us more, since, surprisingly, the skull had a pretty good set of teeth on it.
“Once we get that, we can work backwards from there,” Alfred said.
When she was told by investigators that it would take the DNA lab in Sacramento a year to make a determination, she was crushed.
“I sent the teeth to the detective, thinking that it would speed up the process,” she said.
A check with the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner revealed no development in the case since the skull was discovered.
“I’d like closure to know what happened,” she said. “Every day, you think things could happen. It makes me angry that I can’t do anything to find him.”
Her spirits were upbeat Wednesday, speaking from the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where she began her palliative care the day before.
She wrote: “I live at the doctor’s (office).
“I swear I think I could be a doctor myself now I’ve learned so much. I have 36 medical conditions — not all are a big deal but about 15 of them are and they all affect each other so they monitor me carefully.
“I have what they call a palliative care team, which just means you will not get better but you’re are not quite ready for hospice care yet. Apparently I’m still hanging in there so I’m happy about that, lol.”
She would be even happier, she said, if she learned the true fate of her son.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt