DNA analysis reveals Hood River skeleton was the victim of an East Coast cold case from 2008

HOOD RIVER, Ore. — Thanks to advances in genealogical technology, skeletal remains that were recovered in woodlands near the Columbia River Gorge in 2009 have been linked to the cold case of a missing man from the East Coast that was reported over a decade ago.

Hood River

(Image credit: 2-D re-approximation of facial features and pigmentation generated by Parabon NanoLabs in 2021 using the Snapshot® Advanced DNA Phenotyping technology via Oregon State Police, Facebook)

According to a social media alert from the Oregon State Police, a skeleton consistent with that of a Caucasian male between the age of 30 and 50 was recovered on Christmas Eve in 2009. Children playing in a wooded area near an Oregon Department of Transportation facility in Hood River County alerted the authorities, who recovered the remains alongside a large suitcase full of clothes and a backpack full of toiletries.

All of the teeth remained in good condition and x-rays were completed. In 2011, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office uploaded the case into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System –(NamUs). Bone samples were submitted to a lab in North Texas, but no DNA matches were found.

The case was renewed in 2018 when the OSP Medical Examiner’s Office received a federal grant to dig into cold cases related to unidentified skeletal remains. From there, samples were forwarded to a lab that analyzed DNA to create a profile predicting physical details including eye color, hair color, skin details, face shape, etc.

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An image predicting what the man looked like was uploaded back into the DNA database, and three months later, Parabon NanoLabs compiled enough evidence to suggest that the remains belonged to a man who disappeared from the East Cost in 2008.

The evidence—including dental records, forensic reports, genetic information, family trees, and DNA analysis—was presented to the state’s Medical Examiner’s Office, which confirmed the positive identification in July 2021.

Hood River County officials approached the East Coast family in August 2021 with their findings, but the victim’s loved ones rejected the notion. Even despite the detailed explanations provided by DNA analysts and specialists in this field, the family requested further evidence.

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A swab of DNA from a sibling of the missing man was forwarded to Parabon NanoLabs, which offered the following analysis in March 2022:

“A sample from the kinship tester was compared to the unknown Subject in this case, and they were found to share 2745.9 centimorgans of autosomal DNA (atDNA) with 630.6 centimorgans of the shared DNA fully identical, and 57.5 cM of X-Chromosome DNA (X-DNA)…This amount and type of shared DNA is exclusively consistent with a full (sibling) relationship.”

The remains were released to a funeral home selected by relatives in April 2022. This man’s name is being withheld per the family’s wishes.

“My colleagues and I are grateful for the opportunity to help identify this individual and assist in providing some resolution to his family. As always, we are inspired by the tireless dedication of Dr. Nici Vance, her colleagues at OSP, and the Hood River detectives, who never gave up on this case. The fact that this case has been resolved is directly attributable to their determination and willingness to adopt new investigative technologies and techniques”, said genetic genealogist CeCe Moore.

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