Allegheny County

DNA helps police find Pittsburgh family of man found dead in North Carolina in 1995

PITTSBURGH — DNA technology helped investigators track down the Pittsburgh family of a man found dead in North Carolina in 1995.

According to the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, on Christmas Eve in 1995, people using metal detectors along the Roanoke River near Garysburg, North Carolina, came upon what they thought was a large smooth stone. It was actually a human skull.

Deputies were called and an investigation found an intact human skeleton. The remains were found covered by a thin layer of dirt and leaves. The person was wearing brown pants and a dark coat.

The remains were dug up and transported to the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office. They were determined to be from a man who was about 60-70 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and who would have weighed about 150-170 pounds.

The man was determined to have been dead two to three years before he was found.

It wasn’t until 2013 that a DNA extraction was performed on the remains. That information was then loaded into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database. There were no matches to the DNA.

In 2019, portions of the remains were sent to a company in Texas for further advanced DNA processing. With the advanced technology, the company was able to conduct genealogical research in connection with the National Center for Missing and Endangered, Inc.

On Feb. 11 of this year, a match was found: Orlando Harper of Pittsburgh.

Investigators contacted Harper who said he submitted his DNA because he was trying to find out more about his family. He said the remains were probably his grandfather’s, who was estranged from the family and had not been seen in over 30 years. Harper also said the man was never reported missing.

Harper told investigators the man was last seen by his brother at a home in Salisbury, Maryland in 1982. Officials were able to track down Harper’s mother in Maryland, get a DNA sample from her and compare it to the human remains.

The remains were identified as Edward Evans, Harper’s grandfather. According to World War II draft records, Evans was born in 1906 in Northampton County and was then living in Virginia. Investigators said they are still working to track down more information about Evans and his life.