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Investigators announce big break in case of man who vanished 15 years ago

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John Michael Carroll | Idaho State Police

DRIGGS — The remains of a man who vanished 15 years ago have been found and positively identified thanks to new DNA technology, according to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office.

John Michael Carroll was reported missing Nov. 14, 2005 by his roommate after Carroll did not return home for several days. His clothing, wallet, vehicle, identification and money were left at the house.

At the time, investigators conducted searches for the 58-year-old man around his residence and in Rexburg, where he would frequently ride his ATV. Then, in 2010 and 2011, deputies enlisted the help of K9 cadaver teams to search the area near Carroll’s home. They never found any sign of him and the case became inactive.

Eight years after Carroll vanished, in June 2013, human remains were found by a cattle owner leasing property for his herd several miles from Carroll’s home, Teton County Detective Sgt. Andrew Foster tells EastIdahoNews.com.

“Initial investigation efforts were inconclusive in determining the identity of the remains through anthropological experts at that time so the remains stayed in the custody of the sheriff’s office,” Foster says.

But earlier this year, Foster and Teton County Chief Deputy Bridger Smith attended a training about genealogical DNA analysis. It was the same type of investigative work used to solve a sexual assault that happened at the Victor City Park in 2017. Foster and Sgt. Kendall Bowser decided to take another look at Carroll’s case.

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The investigators contacted Cyndi Hall with Idaho State Police Forensic Services. She reached out to the FBI DNA Casework Unit to run tests on the remains.

“They removed a portion of one of his bones and ground it up into a powder,” Hall tells EastIdahoNews.com. “They compared that to family members who are still alive by swabbing the inside of their cheeks to collect DNA.”

Analysts compared two types of DNA: Autosomal, which is inherited from both the mother and father, and mitochondrial, which is DNA inheritied from just the mother.

“They compared the autosomal DNA with all of the family members and it was determined those remains were likely related to all of those individuals,” Hall says. “They also did the mitochondrial DNA and it was determined they had to be the same maternal line. That gives you a really high liklihood that this is your person.”

Investigators received positive identification on the remains on Friday, Oct. 16. Carroll’s family was informed of the big break Monday.

Deputies are now working to determine how Carroll died and ended up where he died.

“We’re hoping this may jog somebody’s memory who may have seen him riding his ATV or something like that,” Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford says.

Anyone with information on the disappearance or death is asked to call (208) 354-8783 to speak with Foster.

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