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Identities of 5 bodies found in MN are still a mystery decades later

The remains were exhumed from a St. Paul cemetery last summer.
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Authorities are seeking help from families of missing people to provide a DNA sample to see if they're a match for remains exhumed from a St. Paul cemetery.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) last summer exhumed the five bodies, which were buried at Oakland Cemetery but had never been identified. They'd been found dead in Minnesota between 1976 and 1991.

With DNA testing not available at the time they were found, and with subsequent DNA taken from the bodies not showing up in state or federal missing persons databases, the BCA wants families of missing persons to come forward and provide their own DNA samples.

Here are the cases in question:

  • Female aged 25-30, found June 11, 1976, in the Mississippi River near Lilydale.
  • Female aged 16-30, found July 20, 1977, in the Mississippi River near Childs/Warner Roads, St. Paul.
  • Male aged 20-40, found Feb. 7, 1985, in an abandoned building at Kellogg & Wall, St. Paul.
  • Male aged 20-50, found Apr. 18, 1985, in the Mississippi River east of the Ford Dam.
  • Male aged 35-45, found Aug. 27, 1991, in a wooded area east of Hwy. 61 in St. Paul.

"This result further demonstrates the need for families of missing people to provide DNA samples for comparison with unidentified remains," BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said in a news release. "A process that takes less than a minute to complete can answer a lifetime’s worth of questions."

BCA to hold DNA sample events

The BCA has scheduled a series of DNA collection opportunities across the state over the next two weeks, allowing families who have not already done so to give samples. The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center will be on hand to provide support at the event.

"The disappearance of a family member is extremely difficult because the loss is accompanied by so many unanswered questions," BCA Deputy Superintendent Catherine Knutson said in the news release. "While a match like this is not the result families hope for, it is information that may help them move forward."

Since 2013, the BCA has been revisiting unidentified body cases and utilizing up-to-date DNA technology, and thanks to DNA samples provided by family members, has been able to identify five remains.

Close family members – parents, siblings and children – of missing persons who have not provided a DNA sample are encouraged to attend one of the BCA-run events that start this weekend.

They should bring information with them about their missing relative, including name, date of birth, photos, dental records, and items that may contain their relative's DNA (baby teeth, toothbrush, hairbrush etc.).

Here are the dates for the events:

  • Sat., July 15 10 a.m.-2 p.m. BCA Headquarters 1430 Maryland Ave. E., St. Paul
  • Tues., July 18 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Duluth Police Department 2030 N. Arlington Ave.
  • Weds., July 19 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. BCA Bemidji Regional Office 3700 Norris Court NW
  • Thurs., July 27 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Mankato Public Safety Center 710 S. Front St.

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