Man murdered in 1960s identified through genetic genealogy: 'All these years and people still care,' sister says

PHOTO: Roger Hearne Kelso is seen in this undated photo released by the Anne Arundel County Sheriffs office.Playvia Anne Arundel County Sheriff's office
WATCH Man murdered in 60s ID'd through genetic genealogy

A murdered man discovered in a Maryland trash can in 1985 has finally been identified through genetic genealogy, police said.

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The victim, Roger Kelso, was killed when he was about 20 years old, Anne Arundel County police officials said at a news conference Wednesday. The murder took place around 1963.

His body, however, was unidentified when it was discovered 22 years later. The medical examiner said he suffered "severe upper body trauma" but police did not elaborate.

PHOTO: Roger Hearne Kelso is seen in this undated photo released by the Anne Arundel County Sheriffs office. via Anne Arundel County Sheriffs office
Roger Hearne Kelso is seen in this undated photo released by the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's office.

After nearly six decades of being nameless, new technology has helped bring answers.

"All these years and people still care," Kelso's sister, Maryellen Kelso, said at the news conference.

In 2018, Anne Arundel County investigators turned to the emerging tool of genetic genealogy to help break the case.

With genetic genealogy, an unknown person's DNA from a crime scene can be identified through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to a genealogy database. By mapping a family tree of those who have submitted their DNA to the database, investigators can zero in on the unknown individual based on characteristics including age and where they lived.

Genetic genealogy is not only to identify victims; it can also find suspected killers and rapists. In April 2018, the suspected "Golden State Killer" became the first public arrest of a suspect identified through genetic genealogy. Since then over 50 suspects have been identified through the technology, according to genealogy expert CeCe Moore.

Moore is the chief genealogist at Parabon NanoLabs, which worked on the Roger Kelso case.

On April 15, 2019, genetic genealogy analysts and investigators confirmed that the victim in the trash can was Roger Kelso, born on Aug. 28, 1943, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said police.

PHOTO: Roger Hearne Kelso is seen in this undated photo released by the Anne Arundel County Sheriffs office. via Anne Arundel County Sheriffs office
Roger Hearne Kelso is seen in this undated photo released by the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's office.

This month detectives did a nationwide death notification, speaking to Roger Kelso's relatives from Oregon to Arizona to West Virginia, said police.

Detectives learned that he had failed to show up at a family gathering in 1963, police said. His body was found with coins in his pocket, the newest one dated 1963, police added.

No one has been arrested in the slaying.

It is not clear if recovered evidence has DNA that may help determine who killed Roger Kelso, police said.

Kelso's sister called her brother a "gentle, trusting" person.

"Without the use of DNA, without the use of family ancestry, we would have never known the answer," she said.

"I just want to thank the police," she said. "I am so impressed."

Police are still investigating the case as a homicide. Police ask anyone with information about Roger Kelso's activities in and around 1963 to call the Anne Arundel Police on their tip line at (410) 222-4700.