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New Details posted at 5 p.m. Jan. 27

The Chronicle requested a clearer timeline concerning new details released by investigators concerning a body found in McNulty Creek in 2019.

The following new information is provided to The Chronicle by St. Helens Police.

The body was found on September 24, 2019. There was no indication to investigators that the death was suspicious after the initial scene investigation; however, the individual’s identity was unknown.

In November 2019, a lead was developed regarding the possible identity of the decedent. From November 2019 to January 2020, records were reviewed and it was determined that the individual in question was missing. Subsequent interviews were conducted; however, there was ambiguity with the reporting party regarding whether they had actually communicated with the victim and if indeed they were missing.

In August 2020 after a review of the information available, it was determined that the individual in question closely matched the decedent. A family member of the suspected decedent was located and a DNA standard was obtained. In October 2020, two additional family members were located outside the state of Oregon. St. Helens police investigators contacted local detectives in those jurisdictions and ultimately obtained two more DNA samples.

The initial laboratory that St. Helens PD identified for DNA analysis recently advised that they will no longer be able to provide the service. We have now identified a second lab, and once the evidence is submitted, we may have results back in about 12 weeks.

Previous Chronicle coverage posted Jan. 21

St. Helens Police are updating a case in which an unidentified subject was found deceased in McNulty Creek in September 2019.

Investigation Site

Police at the scene of the 2019 investigation.

Read the original Chronicle coverage of that story here.

New developments

St. Helens investigators have identified a potential subject who was reported missing around the same period of time that the deceased subject was found.

Investigators have obtained DNA standards from several family members across the United States and are currently in the process of submitting the DNA standards for analysis. Out of respect for the family, the identity of the subject in question is being withheld until their identity can be confirmed through DNA analysis.

St. Helens Police investigators said they do not consider the incident a suspicious death at this time and they said they are working diligently to identify the subject and provide closure for the family.

"DNA evidence processing is not a rapid procedure that most people are led to believe from watching television shows," St. Helens Police investigators stated in a release. "The state crime lab prioritizes the processing of evidence based on the urgency and seriousness of a case."

Investigation challenges

St. Helens Police added that during normal circumstances, the state crime lab has a large amount of evidence waiting to be processed and prioritize active crimes such as murder, attempted murder, or the sexual assault of a minor over a case such as the local body found case. The investigators said COVID-19 restrictions have delayed evidence processing even further.

"We have researched using private labs to process the evidence and provide a more rapid positive identification," the St. Helens Police investigators said. "We just learned that one lab is no longer processing DNA evidence. We are currently vetting a second lab for the DNA analysis, and understandably, want to make certain we select a reputable, accredited company."

Follow this developing story here online and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.


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