The same scientific technology used to identify a Jane Doe after 33 years has now been used to name her suspected killer.
A woman once known only as “Rising Fawn Jane Doe” remained unidentified for more than three decades after her body was found in Dade County, Georgia in 1988. Genetic genealogists from Othram Inc., however, helped authorities identify her as missing 19-year-old Stacey Lyn Chahorski of North Shores, Michigan in March.
On Tuesday — six months after Charhorski was identified —the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced the same company had used genetic genealogy to help identify the new prime suspect in the case: Henry "Hank" Fredrick Wise, according to a press release.
Wise, who also used the name Hoss Wise, would have been 34 years old at the time of Chahorski’s murder.
A male DNA profile was created from evidence at the original 1988 crime scene and produced “positive results” in June, Othram said in a news release. GBI agents then followed the genetic trail, conducted interviews with Wise’s potential relatives and collected their DNA for confirmation.
“Wise was a truck driver, traveling the route for Western Carolina trucking company, driving through Chattanooga to Birmingham to Nashville, and was also a stunt driver,” said GBI officials.
The man now identified as Chahorski’s killer was burned to death in 1999 following a car crash at the Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina. According to officials, he had a criminal history that included charges of theft, assault, and obstruction of a police officer across several states in the American south, including North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
The identification of Wise marks the first time that genetic genealogy has been used to identify both the victim and the killer, federal officials told several news outlets, including NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA-TV and CNN.
On the afternoon of Dec. 16, 1988, authorities with the Dade County Sheriff’s Office and the GBI responded to reports of a dead body found five miles from the Alabama state line on the northbound lane of Interstate 59, according to the GBI’s original release.
GBI Special Agent in Charge Joe Montgomery told Oxygen.com that the then-unidentified victim was strangled to death and was believed to have been disposed of on the side of the road several days to a week before she was found.
He said there was “no identification” on the body, and “a little evidence” was found in the immediate area. Over the years, investigators tried composite drawings and clay renditions, but to no avail.
“You work these cases, and you live with these cases, and you have really good evidence, and you just can’t do anything with it,” said Montgomery, who explained that previous attempts to link DNA from the crime scene to that in federal databases yielded no results.
According to Montgomery, bureau officials decided to try their hand with genetic genealogy in 2015 after GBI Agent Adam Jones heard about the Golden State Killer case while attending a seminar.
“Nothing happened for years,” he said. “And then finally, for this to come through, it was just amazing.”
State and federal agents assigned to the Jane Doe case in 2015 enlisted the help of Texas-based group Othram Inc., where experts used forensic-grade genome sequencing to find relatives belonging to Chahorski.
According to Montgomery, relatives said Chahorski had traveling around the country to sightsee, though she regularly maintained contact with her mother, Mary Beth Smith, back in Michigan.
Smith last spoke to Chahorski in December 1988, when the young woman was hitchhiking around North Carolina. She reported her daughter missing in January after Chahorski hadn’t returned home for Christmas as planned.
A necklace found with Rising Fawn Jane Doe's remains confirmed for Smith earlier this year that the remains found in 1988 were those of her daughter.
“We are honored to have been able to assist the FBI, GBI and Dade County Sheriff’s Office in not only identifying Chahorski but also in identifying her killer,” Othram CEO David Mittelman told Oxygen.com. “We also have to express gratitude to Audiochuck, which has supported our mission over the last years.”
Mary Beth Smith expressed her gratitude to officials with the GBI, FBI and the Date County Sheriff’s Office for their work in bringing Chahorski’s body back to North Shores, Michigan earlier this year.