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“Palisades Pete” bones identified

PALISADES, Idaho (KIFI) - The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, Teton County Sheriff’s Office in Wyoming and Othram Inc. have worked together to identify human remains found in the Palisades Reservoir lake bed in 2002. 

In September of 2002, a local resident found what appeared to be a human skull at the Palisades Reservoir between Big Elk and Blowout Canyon and contacted the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies began a search of the area finding several more bones, including a human sacrum. Detectives were able to have the bones analyzed by an anthropologist at Idaho State University (ISU), who helped determine which bones were human and which were non-human. The findings from ISU indicated the human bones to be from a male, approximately 25 to 45 years old and of undetermined racial affinity. Over time, the bones were analyzed by additional anthropologists and deputies continued to look for a match.

In researching drownings at the Palisades Reservoir, deputies discovered a 1980 boating accident where two adult men and two children drowned, but were later able to eliminate the possibility these bones belonged to that incident. Since 2002, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office investigators have applied new technology and advances in DNA identification to this case attempting to identify who the bones belonged to. This process included soliciting DNA samples from biological relatives of victims from missing persons cases, entering the bones in relevant databases including National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and sending familial samples to the FBI for comparison to the bones. Until recently those efforts did not result in answers as to the identity of this man. 

In March of 2021, Othram Inc., a biotechnology lab in Texas, contacted the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and offered to assist with the identification of the victim, who had been affectionately nicknamed “Palisades Pete” by NamUs employee Janet Franson in 2014. Our office was able to commit $1000.00 towards this case, as Othram indicated they would crowdfund the remainder of costs incurred for testing. In April 2021 a press release was generated, asking for donations and participation in the DNA process by anyone who may have missing family members from the past. Since that time, a number of people contributed resources to this case and we are very appreciative for their support.

Othram received skeletal remains from Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to produce a comprehensive genealogical profile for the unknown man. The Othram genealogy team conducted a genealogical search and produced investigative leads that pointed detectives to case from our area.

The case, a drowning on the Hoback River on June 1st, 1995, involved Teton County Sheriff’s Detective David Hodges in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Det. Hodges was part of rescue efforts that day where the victim, Kyle Martin, was trapped under a kayak. After the kayak was dislodged from where it was stuck upside down in the river, Martin was swept away in the river and his body was never recovered. 

Det. Hodges became aware of the “Palisades Pete” bones from an article in Forensics Magazine and contacted Bonneville County Sheriff’s detectives to see if they were linked to the Kyle Martin Drowning approximately 20 miles upstream from where the bones were found.

After entering Kyle Martin’s name in NamUs and obtaining a DNA sample from his family, investigators were able to confirm the “Palisades Pete” bones discovered in 2002 were a match, bringing relief to a family who had waited 26 years for their loved one to be discovered. 

The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office would officially like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their efforts in helping with this case: 

  • Dr. Christian Peterson – Idaho State University
  • Susanne Miller – Faunal Analysis and CRM Services,
  • Dr. Russell Nelson – University of Wyoming,
  • The families of Larry Hill and Laddie Schiess
  • Janet Franson and Jessica Hager  - NamUs,
  • University of North Texas,
  • Othram Inc.,
  • FBI,
  • Numerous Crowdfunding donors

In particular, the sheriff's office would like to thank Det. David Hodges with Teton County Sheriff’s Office in Wyoming, who was on the initial case when Kyle Martin first went missing in 1995 and continued pursuing leads and information that ultimately lead to this conclusion.

 This case is a prime example of how technology and continual efforts of multiple agencies and dedicated individuals working together can solve cold cases. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is happy to be a part of providing answers and closure to a family who have waited for so long missing their loved one.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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