DNA tests ID body found in chimney

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2001

More than 15 years after the disappearance of a Concordia Parish resident, his family now knows he can rest in peace.

Late Tuesday evening, officials with a lab in New Orleans confirmed with DNA testing that human remains found in a chimney in Natchez are that of Calvin Wilson.

&uot;The case is closed,&uot; said Adams County Coroner James Lee. &uot;We got a positive match from the blood of his mother.&uot;

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The news brought relief to Wilson’s family.

&uot;It’s just a big load off (my heart) now that everything is 100 percent,&uot; said Herbert Wilson, Calvin’s father.

Although the family felt quite sure that the remains belonged to Wilson prior to DNA testing, they regret that Wilson’s mother, Karolyn Wilson, died in March before hearing the final news.

&uot;It would have just been a blessing if she could have known,&uot; said Herbert Wilson, breaking down into tears. &uot;She wanted to know so bad.&uot;

A local mason discovered Wilson’s bones stuck feet-first in the chimney at the River Boat Gift Shop Under-the Hill in January leading law enforcement to speculate that he may have climbed down the chimney to break into the store.

At that time, the remains were tentatively identified as Wilson because of clothing and other personal effects found on the deceased.

Wilson was 27-years-old and lived at 280 Green Acres Road in Concordia Parish when he disappeared in 1985.

After so much time, his father was glad the waiting was over even though the family had suspected Wilson was dead for years.

&uot;Until you know for sure there’s always that doubt that he could show up,&uot; Herbert Wilson said.

Adding to the family’s grief was the fact that in 1987 officials found a partial skeleton of a white male in Adams County that they thought could have been Wilson.

This was in part due to the fact that the skeleton was the only remains located at a time when Wilson was the only person missing locally, said Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell. In that case, officials did a superimposition – a photograph study – of the remains and determined that 14 of 26 points matched; enough to make a probable identification but not enough to be certain or to release the remains to the family.

&uot;It was never confirmed 100 percent,&uot; Ferrell said. &uot;The forensic science never confirmed (it) positively.&uot;

That’s why Lee was hesitant to rely on the same technique a second time. It had failed before. Such a test conducted this spring resulted in an almost perfect match between a picture of Wilson and the bones found in the chimney but a DNA test was the only way to know for sure, Lee said.

&uot;This is a positive match,&uot; Lee said. &uot;We know this is Calvin Wilson.&uot;

To finance the testing cost $800; $400 to examine the DNA in Wilson’s teeth and another $400 to examine the DNA in his mother’s blood, Lee said. Lee said an autospsy would have cost about $1,000. And this basic genetic test needed in this case cost much less than criminal tests that start at about $1,500, Lee said. He thinks the procedure was worth it because every family deserves to know.

&uot;We have to do that at any cost,&uot; Lee said.

Ferrell was also pleased that the family could now have peace about Wilson’s disappearance. Like the family, he also thought the remains found in the chimney belonged to Wilson prior to the DNA testing.

&uot;But you’ve always got to have that final scientific proof before you get a final result with no questions asked,&uot; he said.

Eventually the remains will be released to the family for burial, Lee said.

As for the partial skeletal remains found in 1987, Ferrell said that case remains open.

&uot;That one will remain a mystery, and it remains open, and it will continue to be pursued,&uot; he said.

In that case, officials were never certain that the remains had not washed down the Mississippi River from outside Adams County, Ferrell said.