Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office & Othram Identify 2015 Homicide Victim

The remains of Bret Snow, a thirty-three year old man who was murdered in 2015, have been identified eight years after his death.

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Published June 05, 2023 by Michael Vogen
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In September 2018, a man fly fishing on the Spokane River found a small fragment of human skull. At the time, the Medical Examiner could not determine the cause and manner of death. Limited resources at the county, state, and federal level meant that DNA testing was not an option, so the skull fragment was placed in storage to await future analysis.

In August 2020, another fragment of human skull was found in a different area of the Spokane River. Again, this fragment could not be identified by standard means, and was too small to determine the cause and manner of death. The fragment was also placed in storage to await future analysis. There was no indication initially that the fragments were related, so they were treated as separate cases.

Information from both cases was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) in June 2022 as UP92361 and UP92359. In August 2022, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Othram, Inc. the Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office submitted a portion of the skeletal remains to Othram's laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the victim and Othram's in-house genealogy team used the DNA profile in forensic genetic genealogy research to generate investigative leads.

Othram genealogists worked together with Nicole Hamada, a death investigator with the Medical Examiner’s Office, to find possible relatives. More than 30 first, second, and third cousins were identified. Multiple relatives were interviewed, eventually producing the name of a missing family member: Bret Snow, a homicide victim from 2015 whose body had never been found.

Snow, who was last seen in Spokane Valley, Washington, was reported missing by a family member on December 3, 2015. At the time of his disappearance, Snow was described as 5'8" tall and having brown hair and brown eyes. As a result of the investigation after his disappearance, detectives arrested four individuals for the murder of Bret Snow. Between 2019 and 2021, Snow's killers--Alvaro Guajardo, Kenneth Stone, Cheryl Sutton, and Colby Vodder--were each tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison for their role in his death despite his body not being found. Snow's murderers did not disclose the location of his remains.

Testing of a reference DNA sample from Bret’s mother, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Veena Singh officially identified the human remains from the Spokane River as those of Bret Robert Snow.

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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.