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Cold case solved: PBSO uses genetic genealogy to ID man found in Atlantic Ocean

Donald H. Kirk had been reported missing to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sept. 15, 2003
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Posted at 3:00 PM, Dec 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-11 17:54:16-05

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office has used genetic genealogy to identify a man whose body was found by a fisherman 20 years ago in the Atlantic Ocean.

He was found on Sept. 7, 2003, about 5 miles from the Boynton Beach Inlet.

The sheriff's office said the man remained one of PBSO's "Cold Cases, Unidentified Human Remains" and was given "Maritime John Doe."

The man's DNA was entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System database, known as CODIS, in which no match was found.

Advancements in forensic investigative genetic genealogy facilitated by Othram Inc. led to a breakthrough in this case.

Through a kin match, the man was identified as Donald H. Kirk, who had been reported missing to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sept. 15, 2003.

Further investigation found he traveled to Fort Lauderdale in 2003 where he boarded a gambling boat and at some time during the gambling cruise elected to end his life by jumping overboard, PBSO said.

One year ago PBSO produced a YouTube podcast on "Maritime John Doe" as part of The Lead.

"In this episode of The Lead, we speak to Detective Cogburn about a case from 2003 where an elderly gentleman was found in the waters east of the Boynton Beach Inlet," according to the YouTube post. "We talk about the various clues left behind that can help someone identify this person,"