Cause of death "undetermined" in Kansas City skull mystery

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Investigators may never know what killed an Oklahoma man whose skull was found in a Kansas City backyard.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner has ruled that Terry Kirtley’s cause of death is “undetermined.”

Back on August 28, a Kansas City man found Kirtley’s skull sitting in the backyard of a home in the 3700 block of Myrtle. In the following days, authorities found the rest of Kirtley’s skeletal remains while searching a nearby wooded area.

In September, NBC Action News spoke with investigators with the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office about the difficulty of determining a cause of death in that type of case. The discovery of a skeleton accompanied by few other clues—like a bullet hole or knife wound—would make the task “tremendous,” one investigator had said.

Kirtley was sentenced to a five-year prison term in February, 2006 for a drug possession conviction. However, corrections officials released him on parole three years later.

He had been missing from a group home for several months and a warrant had been issued for his arrest before his skull was discovered.

According to the autopsy report, Kirtley had a history of mental illness and bipolar disorder with schizophrenia. A toxicology test found evidence of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. However, the autopsy did not reveal any signs of trauma that could indicate a possible homicide.

A Kansas City homicide detective said the death investigation will become an inactive case. If any new information surfaces, the case can be reopened.

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