Man whose skull was found on Pennsylvania riverbank in 1986 is positively identified
01/31/2023 12:07 pm PST
BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (TCD) -- Officials have positively identified a man whose skull was found on a riverbank in 1986, giving answers to a family who hasn’t seen the victim since 1984.
According to the Bucks County District Attorney General’s Office, in June 1986, a fisherman on the Delaware River discovered the remains near the Morrisville Boat Ramp and took the skull to the Buckingham Township Police Department. Bucks County Detectives reportedly took the skull as part of a homicide investigation in 2019 and then gave it to the Bucks County Coroner’s Office.
The coroner’s office reportedly entered the skull into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). In September 2022, detectives sent the skull to Othram Inc., a forensic DNA lab in Texas, for help in identifying the person.
Othram said in a statement that scientists "developed a viable DNA extract from the skeletal remains" and created a "comprehensive DNA profile" using genome sequencing. Then, they reportedly found a "possible match" to someone who used a public genealogy database and identified the remains as belonging to Thomas Richard Alt.
Alt was reported missing to the Trenton Police Department in New Jersey in 1985 after his family last saw him Dec. 24, 1984.
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office said detectives spoke with a woman in Florida who said Alt — her father — and Alt’s girlfriend disappeared when she was 11 years old. The girlfriend was reportedly killed in 1985, and her body was found in April that year in Trenton. The two are suspected homicide victims, and their cases have not been solved yet.
The woman in Florida provided a DNA sample to Othram, and four days later, the lab returned a positive parent-child match.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said in the statement, "I can’t even imagine wondering and worrying about a lost family member for even a day, let alone for 37 years. That wait is now over for Mr. Alt’s family. I’m just glad that we could give them some peace of mind with this identification, and the eventual return of his remains to his family."
Weintraub thanked Othram for their help and said, "I hope that this powerful combination of technology and genealogy becomes the template for solving cold and current cases now and in the future."
According to the District Attorney’s Office, the case is closed "due to lack of evidence of any crime being committed in Bucks County."
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