Anthropologist searches for bone trauma in murders of Tallmadge woman Wendy Ralston, 5-year-old son

TALLMADGE, Ohio - A professor of anthropology at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania is examining the remains of a Tallmadge mother and her 5-year-old son.

Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat said his primary objective is to look for bone trauma.

"I'm 100 percent confident that we'll be able to tell the medical examiner whether we had trauma or not," Dirkmaat said.

The bodies of Wendy Ralston, 31, and Peyton Ralston, 5, were discovered Saturday wrapped in a comforter in a wooded area behind their home on Stone Creek Drive. Detectives aren't sure how they were killed.

Policed described the bodies as badly decomposed. They were sent to Mercyhurst for further examination.

"When we're dealing with remains that are partially decomposed, it's much more important to take a look at the bones themselves, to look for cut marks or gunshot wounds or anything on the bones that might be difficult to see," Dirkmaat said.

He will not discuss any specific findings since the double-murder is under investigation, but he hopes to turn over his findings by next week.

"We'd like to take a look at the remains the rest of the week and maybe over the weekend and provide a preliminary report to the medical examiner," he said.

Outside of the Ralston home on Thursday, balloons and a teddy bear were left in front of the yellow crime scene tape. Two police officers in cruisers were also parked in front of the residence.

Investigators have not named any suspects. They have called Wendy Ralston's boyfriend, 39-year-old Daniel Tighe, "a person of interest." He's also the father of Peyton Ralston.

Dirkmaat has conducted more than 300 forensic anthropology cases for nearly 30 coroners, medical examiners and the state police in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and the FBI.

He also served as the primary scientific advisor to Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller during the recovery and identification of victims of United Flight 93, which crashed on Sept. 11, 2001 during the terrorist attacks.

Print this article Back to Top