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Human remains discovered in DeSmet fire

Tue., Feb. 8, 2011, 4:14 p.m.

Authorities have discovered human remains in the rubble of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s historic former boarding school building, which was destroyed by fire Thursday.

Tribal police found the remains while investigating the cause of the fire, a Tuesday news release from the tribe said. The building, known as the Mary Immaculate School, came to be known as the sisters building or sisters school.

“We’re working with the FBI and the state fire marshal,” said Keith Hutcheson, tribal police chief, in the release. “Hopefully we can determine who this person was for the sake of this individual’s family.”

The cause of the fire is unknown.

Marc Stewart, a spokesman for the tribe, said crews securing the building site knocked over the walls and chimneys after the fire and the material fell into the foundation area.

“They had all this rubble they had to go through,” Stewart said, explaining why the remains were not discovered for several days. The Spokane County medical examiner will do an autopsy, Stewart said.

“To our knowledge, there was no one in the building” at the time of the fire, Stewart said.

The three-story brick building was built in 1908 and used as a boarding school until 1974. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Until its destruction, the building was used for educational and cultural purposes, storage and to house telecommunications equipment for wireless Internet services for the DeSmet area.

“We might never know what caused this fire,” Hutcheson said. “We don’t know why this person was in the building.”

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