The Pima County Medical Examiner's office is using a technique to get fingerprints from bodies that have dehydrated in the desert sun.
The office is one of the few around the U.S. trying to identify people who died in the Southern Arizona desert; bodies that may not be discovered until identifying characteristics, such as fingerprints, are missing or untraceable.
Pima County's Chief Medical Examiner, Gregory Hess, said his staff is rehydrating hands in order to get readable fingerprints to compare to law enforcement databases.
"The one we’re usually most interested in is the Border Patrol database, to see if, because if they’ve been apprehended before, then the Border Patrol will have a photograph from when they’ve been apprehended, what name that they gave when they were apprehended before, that kind of thing," Hess said.
The technique involves soaking the hands in a solution of sodium hydroxide and water for 48 to 72 hours.
Hess said rehydration has helped his office identify 34 bodies in the last two years.
However, this isn't the only unique identification process the office uses. It also has an infrared light process to see tattoos on the dehydration-darkened skin of bodies found in the desert.