Alameda Co. public's help sought in homicide case with release of victim's image

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A man's torso found in Alameda County nearly two decades ago has never been identified, but now, investigators say a new breakthrough in DNA technology has given them a way to turn back the clock and get a possible picture of the victim's face.

The victim's remains were found by a man walking his dog back on May 27, 1997 on a desolate stretch of land at the 0.9 mile marker of Bruns Road in unincorporated Alameda County about one mile north of Bethany Reservoir.

"Someone is missing a loved one," said Sgt. Ray Kelly with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
For nearly two decades, investigators had no way to identify the victim. The man's torso was on the side of the road, badly decomposed, with no fingerprints, dental records or skull.

"Historically what we've done is worked with anthropologists and forensic artists to reconstruct people to see what they look like, but in this case all we have is a torso," Sgt. Kelly said.

Now, new DNA technology has given the victim a face. Sheriff's detectives say they received a computer generated picture from Parabon Nanolabs in Virginia, which analyzed the genes in the victim's DNA sample. It predicted the victim's probable skin color, eye and hair color, facial features, European origin, and age of 25-32 years old.

"This is extremely new and advanced DNA technology called DNA phenotyping," Sgt. Kelly said.
Detectives say Parabon Nanolabs has had success generating composites that resemble live test subjects. The Alameda County Sheriff's Department hopes that by releasing the picture of the victim to the public, they might finally put a name to the man.

"Is it someone that you may have known. Does he resemble somebody? Is it somebody that you haven't seen in a long time? Is it somebody you went to high school with?" Sgt. Kelly said, "We don't even know if our victim is from the Bay Area. He very well could have been dropped here from within the state of out of the state, anywhere in the country."

The Sheriff's investigators say the Parabon Lab analysis cost $3,500 dollars, which they say is about the same they spend on regular DNA processing. The picture has not matched any missing persons profiles in the East Bay, but they hope it might give them some clue to solve the 1997 mystery.