VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Clark County officials say they used forensic genealogy to identify a man whose body was found in the Columbia River more than 24 years ago.
According to the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office, the man found in the Columbia River in Vancouver on Oct. 26, 1998, was Michael E. Johnson, who was approximately 53 years old at the time of his death.
This discovery was the second cold case confirmation in four months for the office.
Officials say Johnson’s cause of death is a gunshot wound to the head, while his manner of death is undetermined. Police say they don’t have any information on Johnson’s activities leading up to the discovery of his body.
A DNA sample was submitted to Bode Technology, a forensic DNA laboratory in Virginia, which found an ancestral link between Johnson and a family from California, according to the examiner’s office. A geologist at the lab figured out that Johnson, a son of Chesley Johnson Jr. and Ruth Marie Hansen, appeared to have no traceable activities since 1998.
The operations manager for the medical examiner’s office, Nikki Costa, contacted other children of the couple. Johnson’s siblings, Russel Johnson and Kathy Bergen, indicated their brother left California over 20 years ago and had no contact with family.
The California Department of Justice Missing Persons DNA Program, along with the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office in Utah and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification assisted the medical examiner’s office to determine, based on the results of the forensic genealogical analysis, DNA analysis and circumstantial evidence in the case, that the previously unidentified man was Johnson.
Anyone with information about Johnson can contact Vancouver Police Department Major Crimes Unit Sgt. Patrick Moore at 360.487.7440.