Remains identified after 58 years due to groundbreaking technology

A cold case began in a cold part of Humboldt County.

In 1968, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a notice in the mail about a skull found in the Berry Summit area.

That skull would go on to be unidentifiable for decades with the unknown remains buried at Ocean View Cemetery.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office collected DNA samples in 2010 and entered them into a missing person DNA index. No matches were found.

That’s when the Las Vegas-based organization Project Justice stepped in to identify the remains.

“We reached out to othram, which is the lab that we work with, and we said, ‘Hey, we understand that there is a big need to find these cases,'” Project Justice member Lydia Ansel said. “We reached out to them and said ‘tell us where you need help’ and California was one of the ones that we ended up quite a bit of cases in.”

Identifying the skull from 1968 was one of three cases that Project Justice funded to help law enforcement find the person behind the remains with updated technology.

“In the past, law enforcement had to use things like fingerprints, dental records, and photos to identify these people,” Project Justice member Justin Woo said. “So now with the dna and genealogical research, they can help and find family members to get the clues that detectives need to find the family.” 

That is one of their main goals: to learn the victim’s story. Who was William Toller?

“This man was a veteran. He was in two different wars. He was a highly educated patriotic person who eventually came back,” Ansel said. “His family never had the opportunity to realize what happened to him and to get the answers or even the closure of a funeral or a grave where they could visit him.”

Toller joined the Marine Corps at age 15, thanks to doctored paperwork, but he was hurt in combat.

He studied at the University of Idaho, getting a degree in psychology before heading off to the Korean War.

All this history led Project Justice to find Toller’s daughter Anona living in Kansas.

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