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Company offers free DNA testing of human remains found on O‘ahu

HONOLULU — Five sets of unidentified human remains discovered on Oahu, including the victim of an unsolved homicide, are under consideration for a free-of-charge DNA analysis to be conducted by a private mainland firm, city officials say.

Texas-based Othram Inc. is offering to do the scientific tests for the city Department of the Medical Examiner as a “gift,” equating to $50,000 in forensic work, to help identify the unknown decedents, officials say.

The City Council must first vote to accept the company’s offer, however.

The Council’s Committee on Public Safety will likely review the request first, via a resolution, at its Thursday meeting, according to Council staff. The full Council might then review the proposal at its meeting in July.

In a June 13 memorandum, city Medical Examiner Masahiko Kobayashi formally requested the Council accept Othram’s DNA testing regime.

“The Department of the Medical Examiner has not taken custody of the gift,” Kobayashi’s memo states. “Othram Inc. has graciously offered advanced deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing to develop single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) profiles and perform forensic genetic genealogy in an effort to identify five unidentified human remains under the jurisdiction of the MED, valued at $50,000. The DNA analysis will be performed by Othram Inc.”

According to the Mayor’s Office, the remains in question were recovered over the past two decades — specifically, between 2000 and 2015.

“The decedents are all individuals whose remains we are unable to identify, and were found in various places on the island of Oahu,” Ian Scheuring, a spokesman for the mayor, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser via email.

One set of remains is confirmed as being female, he said.

“The others did not have sex determination done,” he said. “The ages of the decedents cannot be determined without identifying the individual.”

All of the remains in question were found under “a variety of circumstances,” he said.

“One is a known homicide,” Scheuring added. “The cause of death for the other cases could not be determined.”

None of the decedents appear to be historical Native Hawaiian remains, he said.

If approved by the Council, Othram will conduct the DNA work itself, he added.

“This will be free to the city,” said Scheuring, noting the company has “grants and donated funds that are used across the country for this purpose: identification of the dead.”

He stressed that “DNA testing can take weeks to years” to complete.

The city’s Medical Examiner has not contracted with this firm in the past, he added.

According to the company’s website, much of Othram’s work involves developing laboratory science, software technology and related processes to help solve homicides.

Founded in 2018, Othram touts that its technology is used by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies across the United States and internationally.

Among its recent cases, the company says its DNA testing helped identify a murdered woman whose remains were found over 40 years ago in Southern California.

In 1983 the skeletal remains of the woman were discovered by children in a culvert in present-day Lake Forest, Calif., the company states. By 2022, Othram says, its scientists developed a DNA extract from the provided evidence and used forensic-grade genome sequencing to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the Jane Doe.

The FBI’s forensic genetic genealogy team conducted a genetic genealogy search, which provided new leads in the case. A follow-up investigation was conducted that led officers to positively identify the woman as Maritza Glean Grimmett, who was 20 years old when she went missing in 1979, the company states.

The outcome of Grimmett’s case was publicly announced Monday. The circumstances of her death remain under police investigation, authorities say.
Source: The Garden Island

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