In November 1980, an archaeologist discovered a shallow grave in an isolated San Bernardino desert area which contained the bodies of two unidentified homicide victims, a male, and a female. Neither victim was wearing any clothing, nor was there any form of identification found within the gravesite.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's investigators from the Specialized Investigations Division, Homicide Detail, initiated an investigation into the murder of the two victims. An autopsy was performed, which indicated the two victims died due to gunshot wounds and blunt force trauma. Investigators began the process of identifying the two victims. For several months and subsequent years, all attempts to identify the victims met with negative results. Every available resource that was in place at the time of this investigation was used to identify the victims. Eventually all leads were exhausted.
During the investigation, investigators developed information identifying a person of interest by the name of Howard Neal, originally from Mississippi. Investigators learned Neal had been a resident in the town of Ludlow around the time the victims were killed and buried in the shallow grave. Neal lived in Ludlow with his wife and their young daughter. It was learned that Neal and his family left Ludlow shortly after the victims were murdered and buried. After leaving, Neal went on to commit three murders for which he was eventually tried, convicted, and incarcerated. For years, investigators struggled to get Neal to discuss the double murder from the San Bernardino Desert, but eventually in 2017, Neal did share details about the crime. Unfortunately, he didn’t know who the victims were.
Decades later, with the advent of more advanced DNA testing capabilities, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department sought new ways to analyze the remains of the two victims in hopes that they could develop new clues to their identities. Deputy Peter Headley teamed with Barbara Rae-Venter, famed genetic genealogist, biologist, and retired patent attorney, known for helping police investigators identify the Golden State Killer. The remains of the Ludlow victims were sent to a lab to extract DNA and build a genealogical profile that could be used to identify relatives of the victims. After several failed attempts by different labs, Deputy Peter Headley reached out to Othram. Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® and a proprietary human enrichment method to extract DNA from both unidentified victims and build a high-resolution genealogical profile. The agency then worked with Barbara Rae-Venter to use these profiles to establish identities for the victims.
In December 2020, using forensic genetic genealogy, Deputy Peter Headley and Barbara Rae-Venter identified the victims as Pamela Dianne Duffy and William Everette Lane. Then, in April 2021, the CA-DOJ confirmed the findings of Deputy Peter Headley and Barbara Rae-Venter’s research through traditional STR testing. With the assistance of the County of San Bernardino Victim/Witness Advocate, the process of returning the Ludlow victim’s remains to their families for proper burials has begun.
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 recovery, 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 fail. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. Visit dnasolves.com to learn how anyone can make a difference in helping solve the next cold case.