Body Found in Desert 41 Years Ago Was Man Looking for Gold

Man left California for Nevada in 1970s, was found dead in Arizona in 1982
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
41 Years After Remains Found in Desert, Body Identified as Gold Seeker
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / margouillatphotos)

A California man left the state in the early 1970s to look for gold in Nevada, and eventually disappeared. In 1982, a body was found outside Kingman, Arizona. And now, decades later, authorities have determined the body is that of the California man, Virgil Renner. It's not clear how or when he got to Arizona from Nevada, AZCentral reports. When his body was found, an autopsy determined it was that of a white male around age 55 who died sometime between 1979 and 1981, but not much else could be determined, ABC 10 reports. His remains lay unclaimed in the Tucson medical examiner's office until 2020, when they were brought to the Mohave County medical examiner's office by a special investigations unit.

Earlier this year, a genetic lab in Texas used a DNA sample that used advanced DNA testing, forensic-grade genome sequencing, and forensic genetic genealogy to identify the remains—along with the help of some of his distant relatives who were discovered using the DNA analysis, CBS News reports. Renner never married or had children, and his two siblings, a brother and a sister, died long ago. His remains were found in a rural desert area along with a ragged shirt, pieces of a leather belt, jeans, one sock, a can opener, nail clippers, a toothbrush, and a comb. (More Arizona stories.)

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