In a ground-breaking development, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) have used genealogy technology to successfully identify the previously unknown human remains discovered in a Cook County Pond on March 4, 2019. The individual has been identified as Jeremiah Garretson, a 36-year-old resident of Nashville, Berrien County, Georgia.

The investigation began on that fateful day when the Cook County Sheriff’s Office reached out to the GBI for assistance in unravelling the mystery behind the body found on Ed Lindsey Road in Lenox, GA. The partially decomposed body of a white male was recovered from the pond by the combined efforts of the Cook County 911 and the Department of Natural Resources rangers. The GBI Medical Examiner’s Office conducted a thorough autopsy, concluding that the cause of death was drowning, and the manner of death was accidental.

As the initial investigation ensued, GBI agents scoured missing person reports from multiple counties, including Cook, Berrien, Tift, Lowndes, Colquitt, Lanier, and Brooks, but unfortunately found no matches. Determined to crack the case, the GBI crime lab obtained DNA and fingerprints from the remains, searching them against the CODIS and AFIS databases, yet still, no matches were found. In a bid to obtain public assistance, a sketch of the individual was created by a GBI forensic artist and widely distributed, leading to several leads that regrettably did not yield any matches. Concurrently, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) opened a case to aid in the investigation.

It was in late 2022 when a ray of hope emerged for the unsolved case. The GBI joined forces with Othram, Inc., a trailblazing company based in The Woodlands, Texas, known for its pioneering use of Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to construct comprehensive genealogical profiles. With forensic evidence in hand, the GBI sent the evidence to Othram, Inc. in 2023 for analysis. Through advanced DNA testing and genealogical search, Othram’s technology finally produced investigative leads that led to the positive identification of Jeremiah Garretson. The Garretson family, who had lived in uncertainty for so long, was finally informed of the identification in May 2023, bringing a measure of closure to their loss.

This landmark achievement was made possible not only by the relentless efforts of GBI agents but also with crucial support from the Alapaha Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office contributed a significant portion of funding for the testing, providing essential resources that ultimately helped crack this long-standing cold case.

Genealogy technology has proven to be a game-changer in solving crime cases, particularly those with unidentified remains or missing persons. By leveraging advanced DNA testing and Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing, Othram, Inc. was able to construct comprehensive genealogical profiles, helping law enforcement agencies like the GBI uncover crucial leads and bring closure to families affected by such tragedies.

The GBI remains committed to harnessing cutting-edge technologies and collaborative efforts to solve more cold cases and bring justice to those who have suffered the loss of their loved ones. As genealogy technology continues to evolve, the hope for resolving previously unsolvable cases grows brighter, offering solace to families and communities impacted by these unsolved mysteries.

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  • Photo by Immo Wegmann: instant images