Nov. 17—A person found in an Eaton drainage ditch in 1968 has been identified through a joint investigation by the Preble County Coroner's Office and the Shelby Police Department as a Hamilton man, officials announced Friday.
The unidentified remains buried in Mount Hill Cemetery were thought be those of a female for 55 years with Preble County officials referring to the person as "Penny Doe" — until now.
Through a long and dogged search to find a woman missing from Shelby, Ohio, the science of DNA revealed the person to be Albert A. Frost, who was born Jan. 25, 1935 in Hamilton.
In 2019, the unidentified remains were exhumed as part of an ongoing cold case missing person in investigation spearheaded by Shelby police Det. Adam Turner, who believed the person may have been a been Mary Jane Croft VanGilder who worked at an Air Force depot in Shelby and vanished in 1945.
In the decades since, new technology and online databases for missing and unidentified remains have given a rebirth of hope to families and law enforcement officers putting fresh eyes on missing persons cases.
It was that science that led the identification of Frost, while the search for VanGilder continues.
"I will continue to search for her," Turner said. "She provided closure to his family."
In attendance at the announcement was Frost's great-niece, Tina Barrett, a Butler County attorney who provided DNA for the match.
A photo provided by officials is of Frost as a sophomore at Hamilton High School. His last known address was on Bonacker Avenue.
No record of Frost's death was ever made, and he was never listed or reported as an official missing person. It has been rumored through family members that he may have been the victim of a homicide and secretly buried, according to officials.
The 1968 coroner's office investigation determined the remains were of a person between 5 foot 2 and 5 foot 6, weighing 130 to 140 pounds and buried 12 to 18 months prior to discovery, but it was later believed that the person could have been dead for 15 years.
Moxxy Forensic Investigations, LLC received the case in August 2022 after delays during the pandemic. Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, Utah and Saber Investigations, LLC were also involved in the work.
During laboratory analysis, it was determined that this individual was incorrectly categorized as a biological female during the original report. This individual is a biological male, determined by DNA.
Newspaper articles say Frost married for a short stint and had been arrested on larceny charges a few different times in Butler County. He was a veteran of the United States Army and was known to wear his military-issued Army jacket everywhere. His last known contact was between 1963 and 1964.
Nieces and nephews described Frost as shy and in and out of their lives. He was described as having dark hair, thin with a small frame and left-handed, according to officials. A nephew stated that he looked up to his "Uncle Albert" and considered him sort of a rebel.
There is no sign of trauma to the remains to indicate obvious signs of foul play, according Turner. But the entire body was not recovered, and the remains were skeletal.
Preble County Coroner's Investigator David Lindloff said cause of death was listed as unknown in 1968. They are in the process of preparing an amended death certificate.
"It is going to be extremely difficult to come up with something when you don't even know what the cause of death," Lindloff said. "But you never know what this is going to kick up when word gets out and we know who it is."
He said there are some Preble County families with the last name of Frost with ties to Hamilton.
"To anyone listening and reading, if you are older and remember Albert, reach out to me or the Preble County Coroner's Office," Turner said.