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Skull Found in Alaska Is Linked to New York Man Missing Since 1976

In 1976, Gary Frank Sotherden’s urge for food for journey and the outside led him to the Arctic Circle, the place he and a good friend deliberate to stroll on reverse sides of the Porcupine River in northeastern Alaska, reuniting when the chilly set in and the river froze, his brother mentioned.

The good friend made it out, however Mr. Sotherden was by no means heard from once more.

Planes flew above the distant, winding river looking for Mr. Sotherden, who was from Clay, N.Y., which is a couple of dozen miles northwest of Syracuse. The police and mountain guides additionally searched on land, however their efforts had been unsuccessful.

What occurred to Mr. Sotherden was a thriller that endured for almost 50 years — till Thursday.

Counting on genetic testing and family tree analysis, state troopers in Alaska confirmed {that a} cranium discovered by the Porcupine River in 1997 was that of Mr. Sotherden. Troopers mentioned in a information launch that the suspected reason behind loss of life was a bear mauling, however they didn’t elaborate.

Troopers contacted Mr. Sotherden’s older brother, Stephen Sotherden, in mid-December to ask if he may assist verify a lead within the investigation.

It was the primary time since 1977 that investigators had come throughout new details about what had occurred, Stephen Sotherden mentioned in a cellphone interview on Saturday from his house in Brewerton, N.Y.

“We’ve been engaged on it for 45 years, and it’s good that issues got here to a conclusion,” mentioned Mr. Sotherden, 76. “It was slightly extra brutal than I hoped for.”

He mentioned that after his brother was final seen, aerial searches failed to show up any clues. Their dad and mom employed a mountain information, who looked for Gary Sotherden by canoeing up the Porcupine River in 1977.

“He did discover my brother’s web site,” Mr. Sotherden mentioned. “He discovered his damaged glasses. He discovered identification.”

Mr. Sotherden mentioned his household assumed that his brother had died, across the age of 25, due to the extreme climate within the space. The household put a tombstone within the household cemetery plot engraved together with his title, Mr. Sotherden mentioned. “Misplaced in Alaska within the Seventies,” it learn.

Gary Frank SotherdenCredit score…Stephen Sotherden

Mr. Sotherden mentioned that his brother was a “free spirit” who had traveled throughout the USA and Canada after highschool and ended up in Alaska in 1972. Gary Sotherden labored on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System for just a few years earlier than embarking on the looking journey from which he by no means returned.

Mr. Sotherden didn’t understand it on the time, however there was a break within the case in April 2022, when investigators extracted DNA from a human cranium that had been discovered 25 years earlier, the Alaskan troopers mentioned.

In July 1997, a hunter discovered the cranium alongside the Porcupine River — about eight miles from the Canadian border, close to the place Mr. Sotherden went lacking — and turned it over to the police, the troopers mentioned.

However investigators on the time couldn’t discover some other stays, and the seek for the place the cranium got here from stagnated.

Final 12 months, although, chilly case investigators had been ready to make use of the extracted DNA and family tree analysis to tentatively determine the stays, the troopers mentioned. However to formally verify that that they had discovered the stays of Gary Frank Sotherden, investigators wanted a more in-depth DNA match.

Mr. Sotherden realized {that a} cranium had been found close to the place his brother went lacking when he acquired a name from troopers in December. He was informed that DNA testing had matched with their second cousin. A genealogist working with the investigators had then mapped out a household tree between the second cousin and Gary Frank Sotherden and located his older brother, who agreed to DNA testing.

Investigators informed Mr. Sotherden that it may take a 12 months to acquire the outcomes, however his spouse, Joan, thought {that a} check he had not too long ago carried out via the at-home genetic testing service 23andMe might be used for the affirmation. And it was.

“She made it occur,” Mr. Sotherden mentioned. “She actually put the items collectively.”

Troopers mentioned the household had been knowledgeable concerning the confirmed DNA match on Dec. 27 and put in touch with the State Medical Examiner’s Workplace to obtain the stays. Mr. Sotherden mentioned his household deliberate to carry a memorial within the late spring for his youthful brother.

“It’s been exhausting all the best way alongside, but it surely’s good to no less than know what occurred,” he mentioned.



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