Police Use DNA to Identify Body Found in Colorado 50+ Years Ago
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has a new update on a long-unsolved Lake County cold case.
According to the CBI's Cold Case Files, the case began on June 19, 1970, when two hikers discovered a body in a ditch near the Independence Pass summit. The remains were partially covered by rockfall and "in an advanced state of decomposition."
Police determined that the body likely belonged to a male weighing 125 to 150 pounds and standing between 5'6" and 6'0", but they didn't know who he was.
Authorities submitted the body for further testing, but facial reconstruction attempts and DNA and fingerprint analyses would reveal few answers over the next 50+ years — until now.
In a Tuesday (March 7) press release, the CBI announced that previously-extracted DNA, submitted for Forensic Genetic Genealogy testing in 2022, has identified the Independence Pass John Doe as Gardner Paul Smith of Modesto, California.
Smith was born on September 22, 1930, meaning he could have been around 39 years old when he died.
The Leadville Herald reports that he was an avid skier and veteran who created the Boreal Mountain California resort, charted the Modesto Ski Club, and trained in Aspen.
Smith's daughter is still trying to piece together other unclear details of his life. The publication reports that she believes he could have been murdered; however, the CBI said foul play is not suspected in Smith's death.
If you have any information about this case, contact the Lake County Sheriff's Office at (719) 486-1249. Learn more about Colorado cold cases in the gallery below.