Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office Teams with Othram to Identify an Atlanta Home Fire Victim

An unidentified male victim of a home fire in Atlanta is now known to be 59-year-old Zachary Wells

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Published May 27 by Michael Vogen
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In January 2022, a fire broke out in a one-story home in southwest Atlanta. Firefighters from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department responded to the scene where they worked to contain the heavy fire and smoke that had engulfed the home. Once the fire was contained, investigators assessed the damage and found one victim among the debris. The severity of the injuries made it challenging to initially determine biological sex or other details about the home fire victim that might identify him.

The home was completely destroyed, leaving no clues as to the identify of the home fire victim. Prior to the fire, the house did not have power or running water, although it was determined that multiple people may have occupied the house at some point.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office, on recommendation of the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office, engaged Othram to use advanced DNA testing to see if any new leads could be developed based on a DNA analysis of the victim's remains. Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop a comprehensive genealogical profile for the victim. In the course of the investigation, a candidate family member volunteered to help rule out the possibility that the victim could be related to them. The family member provided a DNA swab and the profile was compared to the unknown man using KinSNP® rapid family testing. Investigators then confirmed that the victim of the fire was 59-year-old Zachary Wells, born and raised in Atlanta, GA.

An investigation into the cause of the fire and the circumstances of Zachary's death continues. Othram and the investors are deeply grateful to Audiochuck for funding the full costs associated with this casework.

Help fund another case Your contributions pay for lab supplies and research tools

Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. With dnasolves.com anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.