Investigators hope technology will help provide a name in a years-long cold case

Published: Feb. 12, 2023 at 4:57 PM CST
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POINSETT COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - The Poinsett County Sheriff’s Office is hoping to solve a 22-year-old case by using DNA once more.

In 2001, a fisherman discovered a skull along the St. Francis River in Marked Tree.

Brad Felkins, lieutenant with the Poinsett County Sheriff’s Office, said the skull was the only remains found at the time. He said now the area the skull was found in is all underwater.

A skull could not give investigators any cause of death. Felkins said the skull was not a complete skull either. It was missing the mandible.

DNA testing would determine just how long John Doe had been deceased.

“From the time he was found he had been deceased at least a year or so. I don’t know how long he might have been deceased but at least up to a year,” Felkins said.

DNA would also tell investigators some details about John Doe. It was determined that John Doe was black and between 16 to 19-years-old at the time of his death. Putting his birth year from 1982 – 1985.

Felkins said police searched for the boy’s identity, following leads of missing persons, to no avail.

“We investigated some missing persons that have been brought to our attention but we haven’t been able to identify him yet,” he said.

Now, the police department has partnered with Othram, a private company that specializes in forensic genealogy.

The practice is relatively new, it uses publicly available genealogy databases to find familial links to DNA.

Forensic genealogy has already helped previously unsolved crimes and it could help identify Poinsett County’s John Doe to his family.

“If we could get it solved, find out, we put a name with the skull, because I’m hoping there’s family out there who’s missing him,” Felkins said. “It falls on us to try and find out what his name is. I think it would be our burden to bear now and it has been for the past 22 years… and we hope to do that.”

The cost of testing can get expensive, but Felkins said the public can help.

“A citizen can donate money to help finance this testing. It’s very costly so every little bit helps, and I know the family of whoever this young man is would appreciate it also,” he said.

Below is the link to donate to help solve the Poinsett County John Doe case: