Detectives identify human remains from 2002 Hoback River drowning

HOBACK, Wyo. — 19 years ago, a Bonneville County resident reported a discovery of what appeared to be a human skull at the Palisades Reservoir between Big Elk and Blowout Canyon.

Deputies began a search of the area and found several more bones, including a human sacrum. Detectives were able to have the bones analyzed by an anthropologist at Idaho State University (ISU), who helped determine which bones were human and which were non-human. The findings from ISU indicated the human bones to be from a male, approximately 25 to 45 years old and of undetermined racial affinity. Over time, the bones were analyzed by additional anthropologists and Deputies continued to look for a match.

Since the human remains were discovered in September of 2002, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) investigators used and applied new technology to identify who the bones belonged to.

The process was extensive and involved soliciting DNA samples from biological relatives of victims from missing persons cases, entering the bones in relevant databases including National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and sending familial samples to the FBI for comparison to the bones. Until recently those efforts did not result in answers as to the identity of this man.

In March of this year, a biotechnology lab in Texas by the name of Othram Inc., offered to assist the BCSO with the identification of the victim.

Othram received skeletal remains from Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to produce a comprehensive genealogical profile for the unknown man. The Othram genealogy team conducted a genealogical search and produced investigative leads that pointed Detectives to cases from our area.

In their investigation, it was found that the case was a drowning that occurred on the Hoback River on June 1, 1995. It involved Teton County Sheriff’s Detective David Hodges in Jackson, Wyoming.

Det. Hodges was part of rescue efforts that day where the victim, Kyle Martin, was trapped under a kayak. After the kayak was dislodged from where it was stuck upside down in the river, Martin was swept away in the river and his body was never recovered. Det. Hodges became aware of the “Palisades Pete” bones from an article in Forensics Magazine and contacted Bonneville County Sheriff’s Detectives to see if they were linked to the Kyle Martin Drowning approximately 20 miles upstream from where the bones were found.

After entering Kyle Martin’s name in NamUs and obtaining a DNA sample from his family, investigators were able to confirm that the “Palisades Pete” bones discovered in 2002 were a match, bringing relief to a family who had waited 26 years for their loved one to be discovered.

“We would like to thank Det. David Hodges with Teton County Sheriff’s Office in Wyoming, who was on the initial case when Kyle Martin first went missing in 1995 and continued pursuing leads and information that ultimately lead to this conclusion,” said BCSO today.

BCSO went on to explain that this case is a prime example of how technology and continuous efforts from agencies and dedicated individuals can help to solve cold cases.

“The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is happy to be a part of providing answers and closure to a family who has waited for so long missing their loved one.”

About The Author

Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter who recently made Jackson home. Born and raised in Connecticut, she enjoys reading non-fiction, skiing, hiking, and playing piano in her downtime. She is most passionate about delivering and pursuing stories that directly impact the lives of individuals in the community. Her favorite aspect about living in Jackson is the genuine admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.

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