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Pickaway County John Doe Identified Through DNA Unidentified Human Remains Discovered in 1991


CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today joined Pickaway County Sheriff Matthew O. Hafey to announce that human remains discovered 31 years ago have been identified as Robert A. Mullins of Columbus.

On Nov. 1, 1991, hunters found skeletal remains in a shallow grave beside a private farm lane on the north side of State Route 56 east, just west of State Route 159.

Initially, the remains were believed to be those of an Indigenous American. However, further review by anthropologists determined that the remains had been in the ground for no more than three years and were possibly those of a female, approximately 25 years of age and of small stature, with an estimated height between 5 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 4 inches.

“Thirty-one Christmases have gone by while this family waited for answers,” Yost said. “When the results weren’t immediate and the case grew cool, Pickaway County law enforcement dug in their heels and kept trying until the evolution of DNA technology finally yielded an identity for John Doe.”

Over the last three decades, investigators from the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office and the Pickaway County Coroner’s Office continued to pursue the case as advances in DNA technology regularly opened up new possibilities for identification:

  • In 2012, the remains were tested at the University of North Texas, where scientists extracted DNA and determined that the individual was male.
  • In 2019, BCI was requested by the coroner’s office to assist and opened an unidentified human remains case, which was able to extract enough DNA from the original bones for advanced testing.
  • In 2021, investigators turned their focus to genetic genealogy as a method to identify John Doe.
  • In January 2022, the sheriff’s and coroner’s offices contracted with AdvanceDNA, which uploaded the DNA profile into Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch databases.
  • On Nov 1, 2022, exactly 31 years from the date of discovery, AdvanceDNA provided Pickaway County officials a strong lead of John Doe’s identity.
  • In December, Mullins’ family members were consulted and provided a DNA sample for comparison, which provided final verification of his identity

Mullins’ family reported that he went missing in late 1988 or early 1989 at age 21. He was 5 feet 3 inches and lived on the northeast side of Columbus.

Sheriff Hafey noted the commitment that his late predecessor, Sheriff Dwight Radliff, invested in the case: “He told us, ‘We are all duty-bound – police officers and citizens alike – to determine this [individual’s] identity and the circumstances of [their] demise.’”

The case remains an open homicide investigation with the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office. Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact Lt. Jonathan Strawser at (740) 474-2176.

Steve Irwin: 614-728-5417


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