DNA Helps State Police Provide Closure to Family of Man Missing for 30 Years

Contact: Ms. Lori Dougovito, MSP Public Affairs Section, 517-284-3223

December 27, 2016

DNA samples from family members played a significant role in determining what happened to their loved they had last seen in 1986.

Charles Cornell, 30, of Battle Creek, was thought to be voluntarily missing and law enforcement had no record of his disappearance.

Upon learning about Cornell earlier this year, D/Sgt. Sarah Krebs, Michigan State Police (MSP) Missing Persons Coordination Unit, encouraged his family to file a police report. A detective sergeant at the MSP Rockford Post then investigated.

Cornell’s mother and sister submitted DNA that was tested in a national database of unidentified remains.

The samples pointed the MSP to a 1989 John Doe case out of Arkansas, almost 900 miles from Battle Creek. Cornell had been walking on the highway and was struck by a semi-truck and killed. Recognizable photos, medical and dental records and fingerprints were on file, but the cases were not connected until the crucial DNA was submitted.

"Cases like this highlight the importance of families of missing people getting their DNA on file in CODIS. It is never too late," said Krebs. "Without that link, the Cornell family may have never known what had happened to Charles."

The family learned of the match today. The Cornell case marks the 67th identification that the MSP Missing Persons Coordination Unit has made and the 32nd made by DNA alone.

For information on how family members can contribute DNA or report a missing person, email MSP-MissingPersons@michigan.gov.