MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s DNA lab matched unidentified remains to reopen a cold case.

And the family of Pearline Walton finally has some answers to the questions they’ve been asking since she went missing from Minneapolis 20 years ago.

On Thursday, the BCA announced that remains found in Wisconsin’s Polk County are those of Walton.

“We’ve really spent the last 20 years trying to identify who this is,” said Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson.

The cold case investigation can now shift gears.

“For us, this really is just the beginning of our case that started nearly 20 years ago without any information on who she was or where she was from,” Johnson said.

This development came about thanks to a BCA project aimed at identifying human remains.

“Like Pearline, many of these people were discovered decades ago when DNA testing was not available,” said Catherine Knutson, the BCA’s DNA lab director. “Due to advancements in DNA technology, we can do more now.”

The heavy lifting is done inside the BCA’s cutting-edge forensic lab.

In Walton’s case, a sample of her remains was pulverized into a powder, hydrated in a tiny vial and run through a computer, revealing the DNA.

Walton’s family members provided the BCA with their DNA, and that led to her identity being returned to her.

“Since May, the BCA has received DNA samples of almost 40 family members of the missing, and testing is already underway on approximately a third of the unidentified remains in an attempt to obtain DNA for comparison,” Knutson said.

Now investigators hope to talk with people who may have known Walton or were with her 20 years ago when she disappeared.

“At least now we do have some information, and the family knows where she is so we can bring her home,” said Drew Burns, of the BCA.

If you have a loved one that has been missing, the BCA is looking for you. A simple swab of the cheek can help bring closure to a family.

Contact the BCA’s missing and unidentified clearinghouse and they will guide you through the process.

The BCA has used money from a special FBI grant to do this work since March.

The program is good until March of next year. If it is successful, the BCA hopes to get an extension and help to identify more loved ones who have been missing for years.


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