According to Big Country News,
GRANGEVILLE - The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office has received confirmation that skeletal remains recovered in 1984 near Colt Killed Creek (White Sand Creek) near the Powell Ranger Station are the remains of Roger Brian Bennett of Oklahoma. Bennett went missing shortly after his discharge from the U.S. Air Force in the Spring of 1982.
According to the Idaho County Sheriff's Office, on September 28, 1983, deputies investigated an abandoned camp near Powell, about 400 yards from the White Sand Road. The camp consisted of a nylon two man tent, a sleeping bag, towels, cooking items, and other items. Also found was a prescription eye glass lens. No identification was found with the items.
Deputies searched the adjoining area and found nothing more. Deputies felt the camp had been abandoned sometime in 1982. On September 19, 1984, ICSO deputies were again in that general area in response to a human skeleton found by hunters. Deputies located the remains approximately one mile from the abandoned camp found the previous year. With the remains were a pair of silver metal framed prescription eyeglasses with one lens missing.
Clothing was recovered that consisted of several shirts, jacket, pants, white tennis shoes, and plastic water bottle, among other things. Again, deputies found no wallet, or any type of identification. Subsequently, deputies returned to the scene with a metal detector looking for any items such as jewelry, a watch, etc. that might have been scattered or receded into the duff. Nothing more was found. Based on the condition of the remains, and the previously found abandoned camp, it was most likely that John Doe had died in late 1982.
In November of 1984, the remains were sent to Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Rodger Heglar in San Francisco, California for evaluation. Heglar felt that John Doe was a male, 40-45 years of age, about 5’6-7” in height. In Heglar’s opinion, John Doe had an incising mark between the 6th and 7th left ribs from a “knife-like object with sharp edge up and flat back down”. In 1985, the North Idaho Regional Crime Lab completed a composite image of John Doe’s possible apperance. In 1986, the skull of John Doe was sent to the North Idaho Regional Crime Lab for a more exacting attempt at a composite image. Depth markers were temporarily affixed to the skull and the contours and features completed with clay.
These images showed a more pronounced lower jawline than the previous attempts. At some point, John Doe began to be affectionately referred to as “Mr. Bones” by ICSO personnel, who felt he deserved some type of unique personalization. ICSO investigators over the years continued researching and working to find the identity of Mr. Bones.
In 2007, NamUs was formed through efforts of the National Institute of Justice. NamUs was developed with the intent to improve access to information that would help solve missing and unidentified person cases. A website was eventually developed (namus.gov) to assist the public and law enforcement in documenting and searching for the missing and unidentified. NamUs currently lists about 21,500 missing persons, and 14,000 unidentified persons (remains recovered, but not identified). Mr. Bones was entered in this database in August of 2010.
NamUs is an invaluable resource for small agencies like ICSO and we have used NamUs extensively since its formation. NamUs has assisted with dental identifications, arranging family DNA reference samples, etc. In March of 2011, working closely with NamUs, ICSO sent Mr. Bones to the University of North Texas, Center for Human Identification, for another complete Forensic Anthropological Evaluation and DNA extraction. UNT determined that Mr. Bones was a 35-55 year old male, most likely of European descent with a possible admixture of Native American. His height was estimated to be between 5’2” and 5”11.
No injuries from at or near the time of death were observed. UNT felt Dr. Heglar was mistaken and the rib marks were most likely caused after death. They also believed the two ribs Dr. Heglar felt were adjacent to one another were actually ribs 6 and 8. DNA was extracted from Mr. Bones and an STR profile was identified. The DNA profile was uploaded into CODIS, a national computerized database of DNA samples, maintained by the FBI.
Investigators continued to work through national databases of missing persons searching for a link to Mr. Bones. A few negative comparisons were made. It became apparent that Mr. Bones might not have been entered as missing in a national database. In November of 2020, ICSO investigators learned that the Idaho State Police might be receiving federal funds that would pay for forensic molecular genetic genealogy. ICSO submitted Mr. Bones’ case and received tentative approval. About a year later ICSO was told the funding for the program had not materialized.
In January of 2022, NamUs graciously decided to fund genetic genealogy testing and samples of Mr. Bones were sent to Othram’s laboratory. Othram is a private lab built to “apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence….We help investigators break through previously impenetrable forensic DNA barriers and close previously unsolvable cases.” On March 22, 2022, an Othram representative called ICSO investigators about a potential family match. ICSO investigators followed up by contacting a potential sibling of Mr. Bones, Cheri Pope in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Cheri confirmed she had a brother named Roger Bennett who disappeared in early 1982.
Cheri and her mother, Wilma Q. Bennett, both provided DNA reference samples. The samples were compared with Mr. Bones by DNA Solutions, a private lab located in Oklahoma City. On April 8, 2022, DNA Solutions notified ICSO that the probability of a mother-son relationship between Mr. Bones and Wilma Bennett was 99.9803%. Based on that result, Idaho County Coroner Cody Funke has concluded that Mr. Bones is Roger Brian Bennett. Roger was born in Oklahoma City in 1955. He grew up in Oklahoma, graduating from Blanchard High School in Blanchard, Oklahoma. He enjoyed journalism and was a National Merit semi finalist.
Roger enlisted in the Air Force and worked in a role involving mid-air refueling. He was discharged in early 1982. In the last letter the family received from Roger, he said he was being discharged from Keesler AFB in Mississippi and planned to travel to Houma, Louisiana to look for work on an offshore oil rig. Roger would have been 26-27 years old at the time of his disappearance. As an adolescent he had an interest in the Lewis & Clark expedition and wondered what it would have been like traveling with the expedition. Roger’s family has expressed their appreciation to all the agencies and individuals who made this identification possible.
The Idaho County Sheriff's Office thanked those below in a release Monday morning:
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