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UNIDENTIFIED

DNA identifies man found on Christmas 1995

Posted on December 27, 2021

Local newsUnidentified
Advanced DNA testing has identified a man found in the Northampton County woods in 1995. This sketch shows what authorities believed Edward Evans looked like prior to his death. The reconstruction was completed by Autumn Krick, a forensic imaging investigator with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

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Advanced DNA testing has identified a man found in the Northampton County woods in 1995. This sketch shows what authorities believed Edward Evans looked like prior to his death. The reconstruction was completed by Autumn Krick, a forensic imaging investigator with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. News Editor Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Click here to read previous installments in the series, along with case updates and additional resources, on Kay's Unidentified blog.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

GARYSBURG — Almost 26 years to the day an unknown man was found in the Northampton County woods, advanced DNA testing has helped authorities identify him.

Edward Evans was found on Christmas Eve 1995. With the help of Othram Labs, the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office identified him on Dec. 10.

The case began when a group of metal detector hobbyists were exploring the banks of the Roanoke River about half a mile from Interstate 95.

“They came upon what they thought was a large, smooth stone. After picking it up, they discovered that it was a human skull,” said Michael Vogen, Othram’s director of case management.

The group called the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office and deputies found an intact skeleton covered with a thin layer of soil and leaves.

Washed ashore, unearthed in shallow graves, stumbled upon in the woods, discovered in abandoned houses, killed on busy roads and located in rivers, ponds and along railroad tracks, more than 100 bodies remain unidentified in North Carolina. This is one of their stories.

Before DNA innovations, detectives had little information with which to work. The skeleton had no hair or eyes for any color determination. He was dressed in a dark blue sportcoat with patch pockets and three brass buttons, suspenders, two long-sleeved shirts, light-colored pants underneath brown corduroy pants, socks and shoes.

He had three razors, a comb, illegible cards and 44 cents in his pockets.

The remains were taken to the N.C. State Medical Examiner’s Office in Raleigh, where medical examiners performed an autopsy.

“It was determined that the person had been deceased two to three years,” Vogen said. “All possible missing persons in the area were ruled out.”

In 2013, investigators performed a DNA extraction and loaded the information into the National Missing and Unidentified Person System. No matches were made.

In December 2018, Lt. Alan Roye of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office took over the case.

In September 2019, portions of the skeletal remains were sent to Othram for further advanced DNA testing, which was funded by the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office.

Othram used forensic-grade genome sequencing to build a comprehensive DNA profile from the skeletal remains. Othram returned investigative leads to Roye and he made contact with a close family member who told him he submitted his DNA because he was doing research to find out more about his family, Vogen said.

The family member said Evans was estranged from the family, hadn’t been seen in more than 30 years and was never reported missing. Family members last saw Evans in 1982 at their home in Salisbury, Maryland.

“A DNA swab was obtained of a close family relative and the DNA sample was submitted for comparison,” Vogen said. “The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation compiled a family tree based on this information.”

The testing confirmed that the unknown skeleton found in 1995 belonged to Evans.

According to World War II draft records, Evans was born on March 16, 1906, in Northampton County and lived in Franklin, Virginia.

Roye is still trying to locate other information about Evans, including any family in Northampton County.

“A special big thanks goes to Othram Inc. for their amazing work in advanced DNA research,” Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald earlier this month. “Without them, this person would not have been identified. We pray and hope this will bring closure for Mr. Evans’ family.”

Othram works with law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. and Canada on cold cases that might benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram says its scientists are experts at recovery, enrichment and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials, according to information the company provided.

Founded in 2018, Othram is located in The Woodlands, Texas.

Anyone with any information about the case can contact Lt. Alan Roye with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office at alan.roye@nhcnc.net, 252-534-2611 ext. 7414, or 252-678-4761.

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