DeKalb County officials turn to DNA to solve cold case, missing person investigations

The DeKalb County district attorney and director of the medical examiner's office held a Missing Persons Event and DNA Drive at the library on Covington Highway on May 20. The event was intended to help people file a new missing persons report or update an existing one. (Chamian Cruz/WABE)

Air Force veteran Ken Boyd said he lost contact with his youngest son, who suffers from mental illness, six or seven years ago.

On Saturday, May 20, he went to the DeKalb County Public Library on Covington Highway to report him missing during the county’s first-ever Missing Persons Event and DNA Drive.

“What I’d like to do is to know that he’s okay – more than anything,” Boyd said.

After helping Boyd enter the report into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, an investigator with the DeKalb County Police Department told him that an officer had spoken to him in Gwinnett County back in February.

“Oh really?” Boyd said, with a sigh of relief. “That’s nice. It makes me feel a little bit better.”

DeKalb County officials said the event was part of a renewed effort to reunite families with missing loved ones. The community was asked to bring photos, original police reports, medical documentation and anything else to help with their search.

Patrick Bailey, director of the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office, said closure can look different for every case. In the case of 6-year-old William Hamilton, formerly known as Clifton Doe, he said technology played a key role in identifying his remains from 1999 and the subsequent prosecution of his mother more than two decades later.

“Giving families closure is what we do,” Bailey said.

District Attorney Sherry Boston said her office was recently awarded a $ 500,000 grant for three years. The DeKalb County Cold Case Task Force will use the funds to catalog, report, test, identify and return to families the unidentified remains of more than two dozen people.

“Identification becomes the first part of seeking justice,” Boston said. “We want to give these remains a name and return those remains back to their loved ones. But once we identify who the people are, then that gives us an opportunity to try to then solve their murders.”

To date, some remains have been housed at the medical examiner’s office. Others are buried and will be exhumed to begin the process of identification.

Groups like The Black and Missing Foundation, Trans Doe Task Force, and Bureau of Indian Affairs were also at the event. Officials said those with information on missing persons or open cold cases can remain anonymous by calling the DA’s Cold Case Tip Line at 404-371-2444.

For information and sketches of several unidentified individuals in DeKalb County, visit