Human remains found in 1996 finally identified as man who vanished during a walk

William Benjamin Adams
Credit: People/News Hampshire Department of Justice

The remains discovered in a wooded area in 1996 have now been identified as belonging to William Benjamin Adams, a 78-year-old New Hampshire man who went missing in June 1991 after leaving his Canaan home for a walk and never returned. Notably, Mr. Adams had been grappling with dementia at the time of his disappearance.

Despite efforts by his family, they were unable to locate him in the aftermath of his disappearance. However, People reports, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, in collaboration with the Cold Case Unit and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, successfully established this identification, as officially announced on Thursday.

Skeletal remains were found in 1996

In November 1996, a hunter discovered skeletal remains in a wooded area of Hanover, as reported by the attorney general’s office in a news release. Further searches in the vicinity uncovered additional remains. Authorities initially suspected that these remains belonged to Benjamin Adams due to their proximity to his last known location.

The attorney general’s office revealed that in 1997, the remains were sent to an out-of-state forensic anthropologist for examination. The analysis “indicated that the biological characteristics were not inconsistent with those of Benjamin Adams” but that “a positive identification could not be made” at the time.

DNA sample shows ‘at least 99.999998%’ probability

The case was revisited recently, and experts from OCME, the University of New Hampshire F.A.I.R. Lab, and the State Police Major Crime and Cold Case Units joined forces. They aimed to use modern DNA technology to potentially solve the mystery of Adams’ disappearance. A DNA sample of Adam’s son was also obtained as a part of the investigation. 

The sample and skeletal remains were sent to a private lab, Bode Technology, for DNA comparison testing, which confirmed, the “probability of relatedness is at least 99.999998%.” Moreover, the DNA evidence was found to be ‘at least 42 million times’ more likely to be from “a biological parent as compared to untested and unrelated individuals,” as stated by the attorney general’s office. 

The OCME is “in the process of coordinating the reunification of Mr. Adams’ remains with his family,” the news release said.