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Forensic Magzine, December 6, 2021: 1989 Homicide Victim ID'ed by DNA, Genetic Genealogy

On July 24, 1989, human remains were found on the northwest shore of Fire Island, west of Anchorage. Investigators from the Alaska State Troopers (AST) responded to the scene and collected the remains. An autopsy concluded that the victim was a Caucasian male, estimated to be 35 to 50 years of age. Evidence was found on the remains that indicated the death was criminal in nature. An anthropologist estimated that the remains had been lying exposed on the beach for at least a year, but an approximate date of death could not be accurately determined. All efforts by AST to identify the victim were unsuccessful. The victim’s remains were eventually interned at the Anchorage Municipal Cemetery. 

In 2003, hair and tissue samples that had been collected at autopsy were sent to the FBI Laboratory in Virginia. A mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) profile was developed. The profile was entered into the national missing persons database, but no identification was made.    

In 2021, the Alaska Bureau of Investigation (ABI) Cold Case Investigation Unit reopened the investigation. Bone samples from the victim that had been retained by the State Medical Examiner’s Office were sent to Othram Inc., a private forensic DNA laboratory in Woodlands TX.  Scientists at Othram were able to extract DNA from the bone samples. They used forensic-grade genome sequencing to develop a comprehensive DNA profile. The profile was uploaded into a genealogy database. The profile was linked to other persons in the database, some of whom had ties to Alaska.  Subsequent genealogy research by Othram and AST indicate that the victim may be Michael Allison Beavers. more

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