New information on skull found in metal box back in 1979

Oconto County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the cold case
New DNA technology is used to lift he secrets behind a skull
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 11:56 AM CDT|Updated: May. 23, 2023 at 5:36 AM CDT
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OCONTO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - New information is coming out about a skull that was found in a metal box back in 1979 in Lena.

The Oconto County Sheriff’s Office says the skull was originally believed to belong to a woman, but officials now believe the skull belongs to a man. It is still unkown how the person died, though.

A landfill caretaker found the skull on August 24, 1979, in Lena. The sheriff’s office said the skull was discovered inside of a metal bread box. The bread box was noted to be in good condition and the skull appeared to belong to a person who, at the time, had died in recent years.

The sheriff’s office said the person was believed to be between the ages of 30 and 40 years old at the time of death.

“At the time of discovery, forensic anthropologists reported the sex of the individual to be female. With advanced technology, it was recently discovered the skull is to a male individual,” the sheriff’s office said Monday in a Facebook post. “No other identifying characteristics were observed and despite exhaustive efforts by the Oconto County Sheriff’s Office, the identity of this individual remains unknown.”

The sheriff’s office says it has partnered with Othram to help crowdfund the $7,500 needed for the remaining casework costs associated with this case in hopes to be able to identify this individual.

Othram is a company that uses forensic genetic genealogy to resolve cold cases.

We spoke with a member of the forensics team with Othram, who said the DNA they’re dealing with is old and essentially contaminated, but their form of technology can make it possible to solve the case.

“There are many processes that the DNA has to pass through in order to build a DNA profile that has hundred and hundred of thousands of markers and can be uploaded to these genealogical databases for law enforcement use and compared to profiles that are fresh from every person that has donated their DNA for law enforcement use into those databases,” Kristin Mittelman, chief development officer at Othram, said.

Othram’s experts believe it’s 100% possible to solve this case and possibly bring a family closure.

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