Newton County Finds Relief After 30 Years

John Ingram Brandenburg Jr.


After roughly 30 years, the bodies of three murder victims were laid to rest in rural Newton County, Indiana. Two were young men who had been killed in 1983; the third, was a woman who had been found on the side of a creek in 1988. After years of anthropological and DNA testing, the county coroner, Scott McCord, decided it was time to lay their bodies to rest. “I didn’t think we’d ever see resolution to any of the cases,”  he said.

However, in 2019, he was compelled to seek closure one last time. At that time, McCord decided to look into forensic genetic genealogy and thus took to learning about building multigenerational family trees with the help of the county deputy coroner and prosecutor. Eventually, a connection to the DNA Doe Project was made and the collaboration began. 

The work started with Charlene Doe. Even though there were just 0.3 nanograms, or 300 trillionths of a gram, of DNA available, the local prosecutor and the DNA DOE Project were able to determine a list of multiple close matches to Charlene through the GEDmatch database. From there, it didn’t take long to determine that Charlene’s real name was Jenifer Noreen Denton, who suddenly went missing in 1988 at the age of 24.

Using the same methods, Brad Doe was identified as John Ingram Brandenburg Jr., who had disappeared at 19 from a Chicago home and fell victim to the serial killer known as the Highway Killer. 

While two families have found closure thanks to forensic genetic genealogy, the work to identify Adam Doe continues. 

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