Second Barron County homicide victim identified by genetic genealogy

Official Press Release From DNA Doe Project to American Crime Journal

Barron County, Wisconsin – 23 June 2020 – Working in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Justice (WDJ), the DNA Doe Project (DDP) has identified the remains recovered from a wooded area south of Barron, Wisconsin in December 2017 as those of Gary Albert Herbst, who was believed to be a homicide victim based on evidence of a gunshot wound to the head.

Special Agent Joe Welsch of the WDJ contacted DDP in January 2019 for assistance in identifying the unknown man. Following sequencing of the DNA in late 2019, advanced bioinformatics ultimately resulted in a usable file which could be uploaded to GEDmatch.com.

Research by DDP volunteer genetic genealogists began on February 25, 2020. In less than two days, team leaders contacted Agent Welsch to offer a likely identity for the John Doe. Agent Welsch was able to secure a DNA sample from a close relative which confirmed the identity of the homicide victim as Gary Albert Herbst.

Team leader Jenny Lecus described the moment the pieces fell into place: “There is such exhilaration when through genetic genealogy we can return a name to someone. But a bitter-sweet realization knowing a family will not be getting the answer they hoped for. Our hearts go out to them.”

DDP wishes to acknowledge the contributions of those groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Barron County Sheriff’s Office; Special Agent Joe Welsch of the Wisconsin Department of Justice who brought the case to DDP; the University of North Texas for providing DNA samples; DNA Solutions for extractions; HudsonAlpha Discovery Life Sciences (formerly Hudson Alpha for Biotechnology) for sequencing; Dr. Gregory Magoon, contracting through Full Genomes Corporation, for bioinformatics; GEDmatch for providing their database; and, of course, the DNA Doe Project’s talented team of volunteers.

About the DNA Doe Project

The DNA Doe Project, Inc. is an all volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to identify John and Jane Does and return them to their families. The genealogy research is pro bono, but it relies on donations to fund lab costs when agencies cannot afford them. To date DDP has made approximately thirty confirmed identifications, including a 1982 Barron County homicide victim announced in January 2020. Discover more at https://dnadoeproject.org/ .

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