According to the Alaska State Troopers, a New York man’s skull discovered in 1997 in a remote area of Alaska’s interior belonged to him. A bear mauling most likely brought on the man’s death.
According to a statement released by the troopers on Thursday, investigators employed genetic genealogy to identify the bones of Gary Frank Sotherden.
Tim DeSpain, an agency spokesman, wrote in an email on Friday, “It appears the person was a victim of bear predation based on the shape, size, and locations of tooth penetrations to the skull.”
“It is unknown if the bear killed the victim.”
According to DeSpain, Sotherden was reported missing in the late 1970s.
The general vicinity of where the skull was discovered was found was the general area of Sotherden’s last known whereabouts, he said.
Sotherden’s hometown was not given by DeSpain, who only stated that he was from upstate New York.
A human skull was discovered along the Porcupine River in July 1997, just 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Canadian border, according to a hunter who informed troopers in Fairbanks. According to the agency, the skull was delivered to the state medical examiner’s office as unidentified after troopers searched the area but found no further remains. According to the troopers’ report, a bear mauling was the death’s likely cause.
According to DeSpain, “relatively recent accomplishments in the department using genetic genealogy to identify unknown culprits and victims” spurred a cold case section to request bone fragments from several remains from the medical examiner’s office last April.
Following several laboratory procedures, “these bone samples generated DNA profiles, which were uploaded into open DNA databases,” he stated.
According to the agency, investigators made a preliminary identification using genetic genealogy and contacted a Sotherden relative who gave a DNA sample.
According to that relative, Sotherden had been dropped off to go hunting in the vicinity where the skull was discovered “sometime in the early- to mid-1970s.”
Late in December, the relative was informed of the DNA match, according to the troopers.