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Forensic genealogy may help ID shooting victim found in 2000

July 23, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Advances in DNA technology and forensic genealogy may finally give law enforcement officers answers about the identity of a man shot to death decades ago in western South Dakota.

Trappers found the man’s skeletal remains hidden beneath a couple of wooden packing crates near the Orman Dam about 4 miles north of St. Onge in February 2000. An autopsy determined the man died of multiple gunshots between 1997 and 1999.

Officials earlier released 3D images of the victim’s facial reconstruction, but that has not led to his identity, the Rapid City Journal reported. Now officials are turning to advanced DNA technology and genealogy websites in hopes of identifying him through family members, according to Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald.

“His voice was silenced by his murder but now we have technology bearing witness for him,” Fitzgerald said Monday. “The technology that’s being utilized today didn’t exist many years ago. This is something new.”

Local law enforcement officers are working with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, forensic genealogist Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick and Bode Technology, a Virginia-based forensic genealogy company.

A new DNA sample was extracted from the victim’s bones about three months ago and was found to have about 51% European heritage and 43% North and Central American heritage, authorities said. His DNA also has been connected with second, third and fourth cousins using genealogical websites.

Officials are waiting to identify closer relatives before reaching out and asking if they have any missing relatives who fit his description. Authorities said once they learn the victim’s identity they can focus on possible suspects in the man’s death.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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