32-year old cold case closed
By Greg Bird
A 32-year cold case was closed this month after the Kentucky State Police announced that the remains of a body found in Strunk in 1986 have finally positively been identified.
On November, 19, 1986 the skeletonized remains of an unidentified person were discovered at a site near Bear Creek off Mt. Pleasant Road, leading off an investigation as to whose they were, and how did they get there.
The KSP stated that over the course of the initial investigation the KSP had assessed several potential leads to try and identify the victim, but were unable to absolutely resolve the case and it eventually went cold and remained unsolved.
But, in 2016 Detective Billy Correll and McCreary County Coroner Tim Corder began efforts to revisit the case with the goal of identifying the body.
After an intensive review of the original case files and evidence recovered from the scene they were able to find a potential link to a missing man out of Norfolk, Virginia. Detective Correll was able to track down a family member of the possible victim in California.
With the assistance of the Arroyo Grande Police Department in Arroyo Grande, California and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) a DNA sample was collected from the family member and submitted to the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center.
The remains were also sent to UNT where a mitochondrial DNA sample was obtained and compared to the data from the family member.
This past month the examination was completed, confirming the identity of the victim as Gerald Swindell who was 29-years old at the time he went missing.
According to initial media reports at the time the remains were found, police had some indication who the remains might belong to as a few months earlier an abandoned van was located and impounded near the area by the National Park Service. The van was traced to an individual out of Virginia, but authorities were never able to locate the owner. Also, at the time the Medical Examiner was unable to definitively identify the remains, so the case remained unsolved.
Detective Correll said Swindell’s name was never entered in to the NAMUS system, so there was no record of him being reported missing, which might explain the initial difficulty connecting him to the remains.
Correll added the conditions of the remains when found make identifying a cause of death not possible, but the death investigation is ongoing with the KSP.
“The technology and resources of today are far better than those of 1986,” said Coroner Corder. “This investigation was successful because of our ability to communicate with other agencies and coordinate our efforts. I am happy to be a part of helping provide some closure to the Swindell family after so many years of not knowing.”
The Denton County coroner in Texas is in contact with Swindell’s family to arrange final disposition of the remains.