(PORTLAND, Ore.) — A toddler found dead in Oregon in the 1960s went decades without a name on his grave, becoming the oldest case of unidentified human remains in the state. Now, thanks to genetic genealogy, his name and story are finally known.
The decomposed body was found by a fisherman on July 11, 1963, in the water of the Keen County Reservoir in Jackson County, the Oregon State Police said. The boy, fully dressed, was wrapped in a blanket and quilt with iron molds inside, an apparent attempt to weigh him down in the water.
The little boy’s identity remained a mystery for decades.
In 2009, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created a composite image to try to generate new leads, police said. The University of North Texas-Center for Human Identification also uploaded the boy’s DNA profile to the law enforcement database CODIS, but no hits were found.
Later, investigators turned to genetic genealogy, through which an unknown suspect’s DNA left at a crime scene can be identified using his or her family members who voluntarily submit their DNA samples to a database. This allows police to create a much larger family tree compared with using only law enforcement databases like CODIS.
This approach also can be used for unknown victims — like in this case.
Genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, also a consultant for ABC News, found several of the boy’s relatives and researched their family trees to narrow the search to the boy’s immediate family.
A man identified as a possible brother told investigators he had a younger brother with disabilities named Stevie who lived in Oregon in the early 1960s “but mysteriously vanished from the family with little explanation,” police said in a statement on Wednesday.
Authorities requested New Mexico birth records for babies with that name born in late 1960 or early 1961 whose mother could be identified using genetic genealogy, police said.
That led investigators to Steven Alexander Crawford, born Oct. 2, 1960.
The possible brother agreed to share a DNA sample, which proved he was the half-brother of the boy, now identified as Stevie Crawford, police said.
“This disabled little boy was loved and missed by his siblings, and deserved to have a name and identity. Stevie’s case was a very emotional one for all of the investigators involved,” Moore, the genetic genealogist, told ABC News. “Once the genetic genealogy research led to his family, the fact that his surviving family has been very loving and willing to assist has been a great comfort.”
Stevie lived with his mother, who has since died, Jackson County sheriff’s officials said. His suspected father lived in California at the time and is also dead.
Stevie’s cause of death isn’t clear. There’s no evidence to support that he was killed, but his secretive burial and lack of family information is considered suspicious, sheriff’s officials said.
Stevie’s exact disability is also not known, but was likely similar to Down syndrome, and his disability or a potential lack of medical access or medical knowledge could have led to his death, according to sheriff’s officials.
Sheriff’s officials said no charges are expected.
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