DNA, genetic genealogy ID remains found more than 40 years ago in SW Minnesota


A black-and-white photo of a man

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension announced Tuesday that remains found in March 1981 in southwest Minnesota were those of Louis Anthony Gattaino of Omaha, Neb.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Investigators using DNA and genetic genealogy have identified a man whose remains were found more than 40 years ago in southwest Minnesota.

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension announced Tuesday that the remains found in March 1981 were those of Louis Anthony Gattaino of Omaha, Neb.

The agencies said Gattaino was the victim of a murder, but did not say how he died. He was 25 years old when he went missing in October 1971, nearly 10 years before his skeletal remains were found near a culvert along Interstate 90 near Beaver Creek, Minn.

“While it’s not news anyone wants, Louis Gattaino’s family at long last has some answers,” Rock County Sheriff Evan Verbrugge said in a news release from the two agencies. “And while there is still much to be learned about Mr. Gattaino’s death, knowing his identity — even decades after he died — is a critically important new clue in this case.”

An investigation after the remains were found in 1981 had failed to determine their identity. The sheriff’s office and BCA said forensic scientists had obtained DNA from the remains, but that DNA did not match anyone in convicted offender or missing persons databases.

Then, in August, researchers from the nonprofit DNA Doe Project compared the DNA from the remains with a “public genealogy database” and found a possible genetic connection to Gattaino’s family.

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“BCA agents and Rock County investigators travelled to Omaha to collect DNA samples from several family members. BCA forensic scientists obtained DNA results that support the familial relationship last week and Rock County investigators notified Gattaino’s family members of the results,” the agencies reported Tuesday.

“Forensic investigative genetic genealogy continues to unlock mysteries and provide families with answers about their loved ones,” BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said in the news release. “Although DNA testing wasn’t possible when Louis Gattaino died, we are grateful that it brings his family some resolution today.”

The BCA urged families of missing persons to report them missing to law enforcement, and provide DNA for comparison to unidentified remains in Minnesota and elsewhere in the U.S.

Authorities also urged anyone who recognizes or had contact with Gattaino between 1971 and 1981, or has any other information about the case, to contact the Rock County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at (507) 283-5000.



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