Stacey Lyn Chahorski was reported missing in January 1989, but it took investigators more than three decades to determine that a body found in Dade County, Georgia, in December 1988 belonged to her, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced earlier. of this year.
Now, his killer has been identified as Henry Fredrick “Hoss” Wise, a truck driver who was driving through Dade County on his regular trucking route, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office Keri Farley said during an interview. a press conference on Tuesday.
Chahorski’s case is “the first time we know that investigative genealogy was used to identify both the victim and the killer in the same case,” Farley said.
“Investigators found what was believed to be the killer’s DNA at the (crime) scene, but for years it could not be linked to the person,” Farley said.
GBI and FBI investigators were able to link Wise to the Chahorski murder by enlisting the help of Othram, a Texas-based lab credited with helping solve a long list of other cold cases. Othram also helped authorities identify Chahorski’s remains.
After Othram received a positive genealogical DNA analysis of crime scene evidence, Georgia investigators began interviewing possible next of kin and collecting DNA samples, GBI said. Eventually, they were able to identify Wise as the killer, the bureau said.
Genealogy technology was crucial to the case, as Wise’s criminal record predates mandatory DNA testing after felony arrests, according to GBI.
While advances in DNA analysis were instrumental in solving the crime, Farley also credited those who worked on the case.
“Technology alone did not solve this case,” he said. “The determination of both FBI and GBI agents, along with all of the officers who worked on this case for more than 33 years, helped bring this case to a close.”
When Chahorski’s remains were identified, authorities said his body would be returned to his family. He had previously been buried since 1989 in an unmarked grave.
FBI Special Agent Tim Burke said at the time that news of Chahorski’s identification brought his mother, Mary Beth Smith, “a little bit of peace.”
“We were also able to provide some jewelry that was found on Stacey here at the crime scene and return it to her,” Burke said.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.