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article imageOldest active missing persons case in U.S. may soon be solved

By Martin Laine     Apr 30, 2014 in Crime
Marvin A. Clark, 75, a retired sheriff, left on a short bus trip from his home in Tigard, Oregon, to Portland, and never returned. His 1926 disappearance made him the oldest active missing persons case in the U.S.
According to an article on The Oregonian website, forensics experts have been able to extract a good DNA sample from an unidentified skeleton found in 1986. Now, the search is on to find any descendants so they can match their DNA for a positive identification. So far, volunteer genealogists have found three great-great-grandchildren. But the results were promising but not definitive.
“They’re looking for a maternal link,” said Dr. Niji Vance of the Oregon state medical examiner’s office. “Someone on his mother’s side, and following that lineage to shore it up. There’s an association there but it’s not strong at this point.”
Because of the age of the case, the details are sketchy and conflicting.
At the time of the disappearance, The Oregonian reported that he left home on Saturday, Oct. 30, 1926, and took a bus to visit his daughter, Mrs. Sidney MacDougall. Another account says it was a stagecoach, and that he was going to a doctor’s appointment.
Two days later, Clark’s wife called MacDougall to ask if he was still there. A search was launched, and a reward offered, but with no success.
MacDougall told the paper that he never arrived there, and said she was puzzled. He had just visited a few days before, and she was not expecting him. Clark was last seen at the Portland Bus Terminal.
Then, in 1986, a logging crew found a skeleton in the area between Tigard and Portland.
There was no identification. There was a pocket knife and a few miscellaneous items, but more significantly, there was also a corroded revolver and a spent .32-caliber cartridge. There was a bullet hole in the skull, and the unknown man’s death was ruled a suicide.
A few days later, Dorothy Willoughby came to police and said it might be Clark, her grandfather, who had disappeared many years earlier. But because there was no way to make a positive identification at the time, the case remained open. Willoughby died in 1991.
In 2011, Dr. Vance came upon the Clark file, and realized the remains were still in storage.
“I was like ‘omigosh, I still have this guy. This is fantastic.’” she said.
Advances in DNA technology have made identification a possibility. She sent a sample to the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas. All that remains is to find a descendant from his mother’s side of the family.
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