KINGMAN, Ariz (AP) - It took more than four decades but authorities said Tuesday that they have finally identified the remains of a California man found in a desert area of northwest Arizona in 1982.
Mohave County Sheriff’s officials said advanced DNA testing concluded that the remains were those of Virgil R. Renner, who left his home in Humboldt County, California, in the early 1970s to search for gold in Nevada.
Investigators said Renner never married or had children and his only siblings — a brother and sister — both died long ago.
It’s unknown how or why Renner ended up in Arizona.
His remains were found in September 1982 in a desert area near Kingman and an autopsy estimated Renner died between 1979 and 1981 at around age 55.
Recovered at the scene were a tattered short-sleeve shirt, parts of a leather belt, denim pants and one argyle sock along with a plastic hair comb, a can opener, fingernail clippers and a toothbrush.
Renner’s identity remained unknown and unclaimed in the Tucson medical examiner’s office until 2020 when a special investigations unit brought the remains to Mohave County.
A DNA sample was sent to a genetic laboratory in Texas that was able to identify Renner using advanced testing, forensic-grade genome sequencing and forensic genetic genealogy.
Scientists developed a DNA profile of the remains and identified Renner through his distant relatives.