IMF is pleased to share the recent announcement from our partners at the Ramapo College of New Jersey Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) Center, confirming the identification of the remains discovered in 2012 in St. Louis, MO as Joseph Daniel Pierce.
Joseph Pierce was only 23 years old when his remains were unearthed, but traditional identification methods failed to unveil his name, shrouding him in anonymity as "St. Louis John Doe". Hailing from Texas, Joseph Pierce's disappearance left his family unsure of his fate for more than a decade.
The story of his identification is a testament to education, persistence and collaboration. As the power of forensic investigative genetic genealogy (FIGG) spreads to aid cold case investigations, the importance of education and outreach regarding this forensic science breakthrough is paramount. In May 2023, the Missing and Unidentified Persons Conference included a presentation on FIGG from our Ramapo College colleagues, David Gurney and Cairenn Binder, that sparked the investigators at the St. Louis City Medical's Office to utilize this powerful tool in this case.
This spurred a collaboration between the St. Louis City Medical Examiner's Office, Ramapo College of New Jersey Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center and our laboratory, Intermountain Forensics that ultimately led to confirming Joseph's identity and allowing his name to be restored to him.
Within this investigation announcement is an essential notation that we would like to highlight. The length of the forensic investigative genetic genealogy work in this case was made much less difficult by the presence of a relative within the GEDmatch genetic genealogy database. “The genetic genealogy in this case was straightforward due to the presence of one of John Doe’s relatives in the GEDmatch database. Thanks to that family member, we were able to quickly provide an investigative lead and ultimately restore Mr. Pierce’s name,” noted Cairenn Binder of the Ramapo College Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center, "We are thankful for our partnership with IMF which helped provide an expeditious resolution to this case". Pierce's mother also hopes that in sharing this story it encourages others to upload DNA to databases to help solve cases like her son's.
Intermountain Forensics echoes Joseph's mother's sentiment. We hope to educate others and inspire them to contribute their DNA to these vital databases for future identifications. Please consider submitting your 23andMe, Ancestry.com, or MyHeritage genetic genealogy profiles to the GEDmatch and/or Family Tree DNA database(s) to assist ongoing investigations.
We would like to thank the St. Louis City Medical Examiner's Office and the Ramapo College of New Jersey Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center for their partnership and persistence. We are honored and humbled to be a part of this collaboration to reclaim Joseph Daniel Pierce's name for himself, his family and his loved ones.