A composite graphic released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office showing illustrations derived from forensic analysis and two portraits of Charles Allen Ray, one showing him as a young sailor and the other taken later in life.

When law enforcement investigations come to a dead end and cases turn cold, it’s often just a matter of time until crime-fighting technology advances to a point where evidence holding the secrets to an unsolved case can reveal them, even decades later.

That’s the circumstances surrounding a cold case from 1985, in which the remains of an unidentified man were discovered on May 24 near Adamsville Road in the Gibsonton area.

Authorities determined he died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head but not much else, even though collected evidence included clothing and personal items that were found nearby.

Further investigation to discover the deceased person’s identity yielded no useful information. Forensic science at that time was developed enough to produce a drawing recreating the facial features of the individual, but it was not enough to produce adequate leads, and the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a national information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases.

That’s where the case remained, but over the past four decades forensic science has developed new investigative tools, including the ability to determine an individual’s identity from genetic material, such as skeletal remains.

As part of its effort to solve cold cases, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) provided genetic material to a biotechnology company called Othram. The company uses genetic genealogy, which combines DNA testing and traditional genealogical methods to create profiles that can reveal biological relationships between people. In forensic investigations, this technology can be used to identify the remains or perpetrators of a crime, as well as genetic traits.

An analysis by Othram of the material provided HCSO investigators with information that allowed them to pursue leads which led them to Knoxville, Tennessee, and the family of Charles Allen Ray, a veteran who was born in 1936 and honorably served in the United States Navy. Their missing family member had been found.

Closing the case prompted remarks from Sheriff Chad Chronister, who praised the investigators’ diligence in this and ongoing cold cases.

“The resolution of this cold case is a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our investigators and the advancements in forensic technology. We are committed to bringing justice and closure to the families affected by unsolved cases, no matter how much time has passed.”

Funding to pay for Othram’s genetic genealogy services was provided by a grant from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Previous articleEarly Intervention For Babies Development And Federal Help
Next articleOpportunities To Serve As A Detention Deputy For HCSO Are Available
Brad Stager
Avian-named publications have figured prominently in Brad Stager's career. Besides writing for the Osprey Observer, he started out writing sports articles for the Seahawk, a weekly newspaper serving the military community aboard Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. That position followed a career documenting life in the Fleet, from the Straits of Magellan to the North Arabian Sea, as a Navy Photographer's Mate. Since settling in the Tampa Bay area, Brad has produced a variety of written, visual and aural content for clients ranging from corporate broadcasters to small businesses.