Stacey Lyn Chahorski was reported missing in January 1989. Still, it took more than three decades for investigators to determine that a body found in Dade County, Georgia, in December 1988 belonged to her, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced earlier this year.
Now, her killer has been identified as Henry Fredrick “Hoss” Wise, a truck driver who drove through Dade County on his regular trucking route, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office Keri Farley said during a news conference Tuesday.
Chahorski's case is “the first time that we know that investigative genealogy was used to identify both the victim and the killer in the same case,” Farley noted.
Farley said that Wise, a stunt driver, died in a stunt car accident in 1999. He had a criminal history that included theft, assault and obstruction of a police officer, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a release.
“Investigators found what was believed to be the killer's DNA at the (crime) scene, but for years it could not be linked to the person,” Farley said.
Investigators with the GBI and the FBI were able to link Wise to Chahorski's killing by enlisting the help of Othram, a Texas-based laboratory credited with helping solve a lengthy list of other cold cases. Othram also helped authorities identify Chahorski's remains.
After Othram received a positive result from genealogy DNA analysis of the crime scene evidence, Georgia investigators began interviewing potential family members and collecting DNA swabs, GBI said. Finally, the bureau said they could identify Wise as the killer.
According to GBI, genealogy technology was crucial to the case as Wise's criminal history pre-dated mandatory DNA testing after felony arrests.
While advances in DNA analysis were instrumental in solving the crime, Farley also acknowledged the work of those who worked the case.
“Technology alone did not solve this case,” she 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.”
When Chahorski's remains were identified, authorities said her body would return to her family. It had previously been buried in 1989 in an unmarked grave.
FBI Special Agent Tim Burke said that the news of Chahorski's identification brought her mother, Mary Beth Smith, “a little bit of peace.”
“We were also able to provide some jewellery that was found on Stacey back here at the crime scene and return that to her,” Burke said.