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Missing person case from 1986 solved

BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI) - A missing person case from 1986 is now solved. 

On April 1, 1986, Wayne Dee Heath was fishing with a friend on the south fork of the Snake River in Bonneville County, just below the Palisades Dam when an anchor rope became entangled in the propellor of their boat. This caused the boat to quickly fill with water and Heath was unable to make it to shore safely. Witnesses stated Heath disappeared about quarter mile downstream from the Dam; however, search efforts were unsuccessful, and Heath’s body was never found. 

In June 2009, a promising development came to light when a local resident found a human tibia bone on a sandbar while fishing the Snake River near Heise in Jefferson County. The bone was collected and turned over to law enforcement to work towards confirming who it may belong to. In January 2013, the University of Texas(UNT) (Health Sciences) were able to render a DNA profile for the tibia and enter its genetic data into the Unidentified Human (Remains) index of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). 

In February 2024, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office received notification from UNT that genetic data associated with the tibia had been linked to family (DNA) reference samples for Heath’s natural son and sister. Advancements in technology and resources related to DNA collection over time ultimately lead to confirmation the bone belonged to Heath. This discovery has allowed detectives to bring this case to a close and provide answers to the Heath family.  

"The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for the assistance of University of Texas (UNT), Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State University Dept. Of Anthology and the Ada County Coroner’s Office in resolving this case. We recognize the importance of providing closure and answers to families who have missing loved ones. This case is a great example of partners and resources who work hard to apply advancements in DNA and technology to these cases decades later. Our hope in this instance is relief for the Heath family and peace of mind."

Article Topic Follows: Idaho Falls

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