Genealogy technology identifies killer of Michigan woman missing for 33 years

GBI/Handout

(NEW YORK) — Investigators in Georgia have used genealogy DNA testing to determine the killer of a Michigan woman who vanished more than three decades ago.

Stacey Lyn Chahorski of Norton Shores, Michigan, was reported missing in January 1989. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that authorities confirmed through a new type of genealogy investigation that a body found in Georgia’s Dade County in December 1988 belonged to Chahorski. Now, that same technology has been used to identify her killer as Henry Fredrick “Hoss” Wise, officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Tuesday.

Wise, a stunt driver, was burned to death in a car accident at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina in 1999. He would have been 34 at the time of Chahorski’s murder, according to a press release from the GBI.

“This case is key because it’s the first time that we know of that investigative genealogy was used to identify both the victim and the killer in the same case,” FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office Keri Farley said at a press conference.

On Dec. 16, 1988, Chahorski’s body — unidentified at that time — was discovered on I-59 in Dade County, Georgia, about 5 miles from the Alabama state line.

“Investigators found what was believed to be the killer’s DNA at the scene,” Farley said, “but for years it could not be linked to the person.”

After Chahorski was identified in March of this year, GBI agents assigned to the case sought the FBI’s assistance to identify her killer. The DNA evidence from the crime scene was sent to Othram, a Texas-based laboratory that helped identify Chahorski’s remains. Othram scientists conducted a genealogy DNA analysis and successfully produced a DNA profile for the unknown male suspect, while FBI genealogists developed investigative leads in June. GBI agents then began interviewing potential relatives and collected DNA swabs for comparison to the profile, ultimately identifying Wise.

Wise also worked as a truck driver for Western Carolina Trucking, traveling through Dade County on his regular route. He had a criminal history in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina that included theft, assault and obstruction of a police officer, but all of which predated mandatory DNA testing for felony arrests.

“Technology alone did not solve this case,” Farley said. “The determination of agents in both the FBI and GBI, along with every officer who worked this case for 33 plus years, helped bring this case to its conclusion.”

Chahorski’s remains were initially buried in an unmarked grave in Dade County but were returned to her family in Norton Shores this year after she was identified. She would be 52 years old today.

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