Mohave County Sheriff's Office Teams with Othram to Identify a 1982 John Doe

After four decades, the remains of man discovered in the vast desert of Mohave County, Arizona has been identified as Virgil Renner of California.

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Published October 10, 2023 by Michael Vogen
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In September 1982, human remains were discovered by citizens who were in the rural desert around Hackberry Road outside of the city limits of Kingman, Arizona. Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Deputies were called to the scene and recovered the remains of an unknown individual. Deputies recovered a variety of personal items, including a plastic hair comb, a rusty can opener, rusty fingernail clippers, a toothbrush, a tattered short-sleeve shirt, leather belt fragments, remnants of denim pants, and an argyle sock. The individual’s remains were transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson, where an autopsy determined the victim to be a White male who was 55+ years old. The man stood between 6’1” to 6’2” during his life. The man’s cause of death could not be determined. It was estimated that the man's death occurred between the years of 1979 and 1981.

The man’s remains were kept at the Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson, Arizona until 2020. At that time, investigators from the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit (SIU) transported the man’s remains to the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office. For more than forty years, the man remained unknown and unclaimed as several attempts to identify him proved unsuccessful. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP13165.

In February 2023, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit (SIU) once again teamed with Othram to leverage advanced DNA testing to assist in the identification of the unknown man. Forensic evidence was submitted to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from skeletal remains and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop a comprehensive DNA profile. Othram's in-house forensic genetic genealogy team then used the profile in a genealogical search to generate new investigative leads in the case, including the identification of distant relatives of the unknown man. A follow-up investigation by the Mohave County Sheriff's Office SIU confirmed the identity of the man as Virgil R. Renner from Humboldt County, California. It is believed that Renner was born in 1910.

At this time, little is known about Renner. He had a brother and a sister, who are long since deceased. Renner never married and never had children. The identification of Renner was made through DNA comparisons to his genetic relatives. Investigators learned that Renner left California in the early 1970s to search for gold in Nevada. It is unknown how and why he made his way to Arizona.

The costs associated with this case were funded by Project Grace, a philanthropic initiative with a goal to help clear backlogs of unsolved cases. Othram is grateful for the funding support for this case and several other cases that have been worked with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

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.