As police and dogs search the heavy woods behind the Hillside School, authorities are hoping that jewelry -- including an engraved "#1 Mom" bracelet found among the first set of bones -- will offer clues to the women's identities and the circumstances of their deaths.
Speaking yesterday at Marlborough Police headquarters, Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said medical examiners have determined that human bones discovered Monday belonged to a white woman between the ages 30 and 45 whose height ranged from 5 feet to 5-foot-4. She has been dead from three months to five years, Coakley said.
Authorities searching the area Monday for additional remains uncovered the second set of bones, including a skull, approximately 100 yards from where another woman's skull and body were found last week.
Forensic specialists have determined that that woman was also white, about 5 feet tall, between the ages of 20 and 35, and had been dead between three months and three years.
The deaths are considered suspicious, and authorities believe they might be related because of the proximity of the remains. But investigators have yet to find any evidence that the women were murdered.
"There's no obvious signs of foul play," Coakley said. "Until we find out who they are, it's going to be very difficult to determine how they died and where they died."
Authorities determined that a red and black Guess shirt believed to belong to the first woman whose remains were discovered Wednesday was made in 2000. The clothing, which was tattered and weathered, also included flannel pajama pants and a zippered top with blue and white stripes on the sleeves.
Authorities also found two rings believed to have belonged to that woman: a turquoise single-band ring and an adjustable ring with fake stones, possibly cubic zirconia, Coakley said. The mother's bracelet was found on an arm bone, Coakley said.
No clothing or jewelry was found with the second set of remains.
The first remains were discovered by students clearing a nature trail in a remote corner of the Hillside School's sprawling campus. The next day, police found a grave and additional human remains that animals had strewn across a 50-yard area near the Assabet River, about 300 yards south of Interstate 290.
The second set of remains were found further away from the highway and closer to the river, authorities said.
The first woman's teeth -- as were the second woman's -- were in very poor condition, which authorities said suggested she may have been homeless or a runaway.
Police have not yet run DNA tests on the remains but have dental profiles of both women. DNA testing will take "weeks or months" because the bones are badly decayed, Coakley said.
Nearly 80 percent of the first skeleton has been recovered, and about 40 percent of the second.
"Our hope is that someone will say, `We have a daughter, a sister, someone we know who is missing' and be able to do the match," Coakley said.
Authorities have not turned up anyone matching the victims' profiles in missing-person databases, but said they plan to widen the search beyond Massachusetts and New England. They asked for the public's assistance, hoping that the descriptions of the women and the "somewhat distinctive" jewelry would help produce leads in the investigation.
"Anything about the clothing or the jewelry may ring a bell or strike a chord with someone, particularly since we've narrowed the time range of what we believe was the disappearance," Coakley said. "Until we identify who these young women are, our hands are really tied."
Kym Pasqualini, president of the Nation's Center for Missing Adults, said that finding somewhat unusual personal items greatly boosts the chance of identifying remains. But she said that fewer adults are reported missing and, as a result, the remains of adults are harder to identify.
"There's no mandate that requires a missing person report to be taken for adults," she said. "However, there is a mandate for children."
At the end of August, there were more than 100,000 missing persons nationwide, including about 60,000 juveniles. But many of the adults disappeared as children, she said.
If a skull is found relatively intact, forensic specialists can often determine the individual's facial features fairly accurately, she said. "We're advancing in some remarkable ways in identifying human remains."
A grave has not been found for the second woman's remains, and the two do not appear to have been buried together, authorities said.
Authorities said the area where the remains were found includes wetlands and is difficult to get to, making it a tough spot to dump a body. The area can be reached by an unpaved, overgrown access road on a one-time farm. But investigators say it's unclear unclear where the women died.
Marlborough police said youths occasionally gather in the woods where the remains were found, to have drinks.
Yesterday, seven dogs searched the woods, and Marlborough Police Chief Mark Leonard said he expected dogs trained to sniff for dead bodies to search today for additional remains.
The Hillside School is an independent boarding and day school for 105 boys in grades 5 to 9. Arthur Goodearl, Hillside assistant headmaster, said his students have done a good job staying focused amid the "uncertainty and confusion."
"They've handled it very well," he said.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.