DNA technology has helped investigators in Washington state identify two victims in separate cold cases decades after they went missing and remains were found.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public for more information on the deaths of Blaine Has Tricks, 38, who was from North Dakota and disappeared in 1977 after living in Spokane, and Alice Lou Williams, who vanished in 1981.
A partial human cranium later found in 2009 in a ravine was recently identified as belonging to Williams, officials said.
Tricks took a train to Spokane with his brother and was never heard from again and not reported missing, authorities said. A bulldozer operator at a landfill later found human remains on Sept. 7, 1977 in Maysville. The Snohomish County coroner determined the manner of death to be a homicide but the victim’s identity remained a mystery.
“Through family history and archived newspaper articles, the Medical Examiner’s Office learned that Blaine Has Tricks was in the Spokane area from 1974 until 1977,” officials said in a statement, Fox Seattle reported. “The Bureau of Indian Affairs obtained DNA from three of Blaine’s relatives. DNA testing of two of Blaine’s nephews confirmed the identification of Marysville Landfill John Doe as Blaine Has Tricks, who was born on May 21, 1939.”
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Investigators are still seeking information on Tricks’ death.
Williams went missing under suspicious circumstances from a recreational cabin on Lake Loma in July 1981, officials said. Decades after the cranium remains were found, DNA was extracted in March and a profile was developed that could be uploaded to genealogical databases.
“The Medical Examiner’s Office uploaded the Othram DNA profile to GEDmatch and obtained multiple close matches. They built family trees and discovered that Alice Lou Williams was a genealogical fit and that she also appeared to be unaccounted for,” officials said. “Alice’s adult children were contacted about the possibility, and they volunteered a DNA sample for comparison.
Williams was officially identified on June 10 and her death has been ruled a homicide. Dona Roth, Williams’ daughter, said her family has “become broken” over her mother’s disappearance.
“The only person who could supply any information to the investigators was my Father, who was the last person to see her. Our family became broken over her disappearance and that wound has never healed,” she said in a statement released through the sheriff’s office. “In closing, I would just like to thank my Mom for her love and devotion. Also, for teaching hard work and dedication and for leading the way for my own family. She will always be remembered in our hearts.”
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