How A 2 Year Old Was Identified Over 50 Years After His Mysterious Death

On July 11, 1963, a man was fishing at the Keen County Reservoir located in Jackson County, Oregon, when his hook caught a bundle of sheets. The man reeled it in, and he was caught off guard by the horrific catch. Bundled in the sheets was the decomposed body of a child. The Oregon State Police immediately went to the location to investigate the matter. Per Law and Crime, the child was found dressed in what was described as "high-quality clothing" that consisted of corduroy pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and Jumping Jack brand shoes. He was wrapped in a blanket together with iron molds, most likely in an attempt to keep the body from floating in the water and being discovered.

The Oregon State Police worked with the FBI to solve the case, but there were no leads in regard to the identity of the toddler and what happened to him. The autopsy report showed that the child was around 1 to 2 years old, and he showed characteristics of Down Syndrome — a disorder resulting from an abnormal cell division during development. According to Kiro 7, the cause of death couldn't be determined, but it was assumed that his death was the result of suspicious circumstances because of how he was discovered. No one came forward to claim the child, and he was buried with a marker that read, "Name known only to God."

DNA and genetic genealogy was used

Years passed, and the boy's case remained cold. In 2007, the case was reopened, and detectives had his body exhumed the following year to extract his DNA. The passage of time meant that there were new techniques that investigators could use to identify the child. His DNA profile was uploaded to an identification database, but there was no match, as reported by Law and Crime. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created a composite sketch of the boy in 2009 in hopes that someone would recognize him, but that did not provide leads either. Again, the little boy's case went cold until 2018, when the Medical Examiner's Office in Oregon was given a grant to use a new DNA technique on skeletal remains from unidentified victims in unsolved cases.

In 2020, detectives worked with Parabon NanoLabs and extracted a suitable DNA profile from the child's bones, which allowed them to accurately determine the child's ancestry, as well as other details including the skin, hair, and eye color. A report from the Oregon State Police read, "This child was of Northern European descent, with very fair skin, brown eyes, and brown to light blonde hair."

The boy was identified after 58 years

The unknown boy's DNA was compared to the DNA of individuals that were voluntarily provided to an open-source DNA database called GEDmatch. CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist who worked on the case, was able to track two possible siblings of the unidentified boy, as reported by Kiro 7. One of the matches was interviewed, and he revealed that he had a disabled brother named Stevie who disappeared without any explanation. According to him, Stevie was born in New Mexico, but they lived in Oregon in the 1960s. Detectives were able to find the birth certificate of a boy named Steven Alexander Crawford who was born on October 2, 1960, in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

According to the Oregon State Police, an oral swab was collected from the potential sibling in 2021, and it was compared to the unidentified boy's DNA in a test called Kinship Inference, which determines if there's any familial relationship between the two samples. The test is highly accurate, even if the test subjects are distant relatives. The result confirmed that the boy was, indeed, Stevie, and he was the half-brother of the man who provided his DNA. After 58 years, the boy was finally identified. The boy's mother had already died by that time, but authorities said that Stevie's siblings were eager to assist in the investigation. Colin Fagan, a retired detective sergeant who worked on the case, said, "To reunite him with his family and ancestors, I think is just important and very satisfying."