(WMC-TV) – New crime solving technology is helping Mid-South investigators tackle a cold case that's more than a decade old.
Thanks to forensic testing, investigators were finally able to identify the victim. However, they still don't know what caused his death.
Shelby County Sheriff's Office investigators say the pieces of this cold case puzzle came together when a new detective took a closer look.
"I'm a big believer in fresh eyes," said Sgt. Kevin Helms, who's now investigating Quirino Mata's death.
In December 2010, hunters found human remains in Lakeland.
While sifting through pieces of the 2010 case, Helms began using a public data base for national missing and unidentified persons and said Mata caught his eye.
Mata, a 26-year-old mechanic, disappeared while on his way to visit his wife and 2 children who lived in Virginia.
He was last seen renewing his driver's license in January 2001. His car was found a month later in a wooded area behind a home in the 3200 block of Cedar Springs in Frayser.
Helms said missing persons cases can be difficult because many people are reported missing by family members due to drug habits and mental illness, but he said one detail stuck out to him in this particular case.
"A family member says 'No matter what he or she has been through, he was supposed to be here or she was supposed to be here,' that really sticks out to me," he said.
Mata's wife in Virginia was unable to report him missing until March 2001.
In January 2004, a human skull was found in the same area where Mata's abandoned car was found.
Forensic testing allowed Helms to connect those pieces 11 years later.
Experts were able to confirm that the skull was that of Quirino Mata.
He is no longer considered a missing person. This case in now considered a death investigation. Investigators urge anyone with information about this case to call Crimestoppers at 901-528-CASH.