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Decades old cold case breakthrough because of genetic genealogy

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel's vest.{ } (Tiffany Olin/ News10)
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel's vest. (Tiffany Olin/ News10)
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The Josephine County Sheriff's Office finally has a name for the human remains discovered on a property in the Quartz Creek area in 1986.

According to officials, a homeowner discovered the skeletal human remains while putting in a new septic system on the property.

In the gravesite, there was also fabric believed to be from a dress, a worn set of dentures, and two rubber items believed to be from a walker or crutches.

Back then, detectives were unable to identify the deceased and sent the remains to the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office for further testing. The Sheriff's Office says it believes the remains may have been in the ground for 15 to 20 years before being discovered.

Between 1986 and 2016, investigators say identification was attempted multiple times but no leads were ever discovered.

In 2018, the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office received a grant allowing it to send the remains to Parabon NanoLabs for further DNA and genetic genealogy testing.

With this technology, it was discovered the remains might belong to a missing person from the Rogue River area in 1959 named Elsie Baker. Police say Elsie went missing under suspicious circumstances.

According to the Sheriff's Office, law enforcement learned that family and friends of Elsie had not heard from her for an undisclosed period. Officers went to her home and found her wheelchair but no sign of Elsie. An investigation began and multiple people were interviewed between 1959 and 1960.

Police discovered Elsie was being treated for cancer and would have needed help leaving her home, as she was mainly wheelchair-bound. The Sheriff's Office says around $10 thousand was also missing from the home.

After Parabon NanoLabs suggested Elsie may have a living grandson in the Utah area in 2022, Josephine County detectives contacted the grandson who willingly provided a DNA sample.

In January of 2023, Parabon NanoLabs and the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office were able to positively identify the skeletal remains discovered 37 years ago as Elsie Baker.

At this time, no further information about the investigation is available.

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