updated 6/27/2006 6:41:44 AM ET 2006-06-27T10:41:44

An empty casket with a military seal discovered in the desert turned out to have been thrown away by a mortuary after the family of the service member asked that the body be exhumed and cremated, authorities said.

Deputies were called to the desert area near Interstate 10 Saturday after two people playing paintball found the casket, which was metallic silver with a U.S. Army insignia on it.

Forensic investigators then took DNA samples and began efforts to try to find where the casket came from.

Mortuary employees contacted authorities Sunday after seeing news accounts about the discovery. No information was given on who had been buried in the casket.

Deputy Dawn Barkman, a spokeswoman for the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, said the casket was taken to a landfill after the body was exhumed in late May. Someone took it from the landfill, then dumped it, he said.

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