Orange County Sheriff’s Department & the FBI Partner with Othram to Identify 1980 Homicide Victim

After 43 years, a murdered young man found in Orange County, California has been identified as 20-year-old Lonnie Raymond Thomas.

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Published November 07, 2023 by Michael Vogen
Media Inquiries


In May 1980, the remains of an unknown man were found near Brea, California in the Tonner Canyon area adjacent to an oil well. The remains were examined by a forensic anthropologist. It was determined that the individual was a Black male, who was estimated to be between the ages of 17 and 24 years. The man’s height was estimated to be between 5’8” and 5’11” and he weighed approximately 180 pounds. It was estimated that the young man had died five to twelve months prior to the discovery of his remains. His cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the face and his death was ruled a homicide.

For decades, investigators worked to identify the man. Despite their efforts, the identity of the man remained unknown, and the case eventually went cold. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing an Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP7652. The man was buried with a name, but investigators never gave up trying to identify him. With advances in DNA testing, the murder victim's remains were exhumed in May 2022, in hopes that advanced DNA testing could assist in his identification.

In June 2022, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists developed a suitable DNA extract from the evidence and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown man. After successfully completing the process, the DNA profile was delivered to the FBI's forensic genetic genealogy team and the FBI team performed the necessary work to generate new investigative leads in the case.

The FBI identified several promising leads and Orange County Sheriff investigators began working to identify family members of the unknown man. After months of work, investigators contacted a woman in Compton, California who was believed to be the young man’s mother. Using familial reference DNA samples, investigators were able to identify the murdered young man as Lonnie Raymond Thomas. Thomas was 20 years old at the time of his death. Thomas’s family has been notified of his positive identification and his remains will be reinterred this week. Orange County Sheriff investigators ordered a gravestone to mark his final resting place with his real name.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators now turn their focus to investigating the homicide of Lonnie Raymond Thomas. Anyone with information related to this case is asked to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or

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 to learn how we can help you with your case. With anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.