AST: DNA solves Reagan-era missing person case
The Alaska State Troopers recently used DNA evidence to solve a missing person case from 1987, when 38-year-old Ronald Oquilluk disappeared from an assisted living home near Butte in the Matanuska Valley.
According to a narrative from AST Public Information Officer Ken Marsh on the agency's website, Oquilluk's disappearance was not out of the ordinary at first. He had special needs and would occasionally slip away from his caregivers, once traveling 40 miles away to Anchorage. In the spring of '87, however, the search for Oquilluk didn't last minutes or hours — it stretched 32 years.
In September 1996, some hair and a human jaw were found in a dry creek bed near the village of Central. The village is located in Interior Alaska, 450 miles away from Oquilluk's last known whereabouts.
At the time, the remains were thought to have belonged to a woman who went missing a year prior. In June 2001, troopers sent the remains to the FBI for DNA testing. By 2003, a DNA profile was made, but was not a match to the missing woman.
Thirty-one years later, on March 2, 2018, Oquilluk's sister Alice Topkok called AST to check on the status of her brother's case. Troopers took DNA from Topkok and entered it into the Combined DNA Index System. The results came back around a year later, revealing a match.
Marsh says Topkok never learned the remains found near Central were her brother's. She passed away in October 2018, a few months after submitting her DNA for testing. Troopers were able to contact a niece of Oquilluk's living in Fairbanks to bring closure to the family.
Approximately 1,350 unsolved cases are currently kept in the Alaska State Trooper’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse, Marsh says. To learn more about providing DNA for testing, contact the Missing Persons Clearinghouse at 907-269-5038. To report a missing person, call your local law enforcement agency.
Correction: A previous version of this story listed the Missing Persons Clearinghouse phone number as 90-269-5039. That was incorrect, and the story has been updated to the correct number.
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