Washington State law enforcement authorities say they have finally identified the bodies of two murder victims who were killed over 40 years ago.
Detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office say a man found in a landfill by a bulldozer operator in 1977 is confirmed to be Blaine Has Tricks, whose death was categorized as a homicide at the time. A woman whose partial remains were found in a steep ravine by U.S. Forest Service surveyors in 2009 is confirmed to be Alice Lou Williams, who was first reported missing in 1981. Collectively, the identities of the two perplexed law enforcement for decades.
“There’s always hope, even after 45 years,” SCSO Cold Case Detective Jim Scharf said in comments reported by Seattle NBC affiliate KING on Thursday, June 16. “These cases can be solved.”
At the time Williams’s remains were discovered, investigators were particularly flummoxed – only a part of her skull was found. Even the FBI turned up empty-handed after performing “extensive genetic testing” on the cranium in question, according to MyNorthwest.com.
Efforts were made by the SCSO Cold Case unit and Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office in 2017 and 2019 through two separate genetic testing organizations. Both times, however, successful genetic profiles remained just out of reach. The first two labs were able to make some amount of headway, but neither could put together a full profile of the deceased woman.
In March of this year, the SCSO got a break in the case when The Woodlands, Texas-based Othram, Inc. extracted enough DNA to create a profile. That profile was then given the forensic genealogy treatment. The DNA profile was matched up against genealogical histories of numerous families. On June 10, 2022, Snohomish County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Matt Lacy identified the skull as belonging to Williams, a woman who was last seen alive at her cabin on Lake Loma in July 1981. Her death was classified as a homicide.
“I planned on retiring June 30 of 2019 and in 2018 when I realized what a great tool this was, I knew more cases could be solved,” Scharf said in comments reported by Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO – speaking of the dual-pronged method of testing DNA profiles against family trees from DNA databases. “Any day, it’s like the lottery. Somebody else could upload their DNA and we could get a brother that we matched.”
In September 1977, the John Doe later identified as Tricks was discovered. An autopsy was unable to determine his cause of death due to the “extensive post-mortem trauma due to the compaction during transport and bulldozing processes at the landfill,” according to Snohomish County’s webpage about the case.
The case went cold until Scharf and his team reopened it in 2009. Over a decades’ worth of genetic testing failed to produce results. Until April 2021, when Othram developed a DNA profile that was uploaded to a database. Results were returned at the great-niece level.
County officials detail the investigation that followed:
Through family history the SCMEO learned that Blaine Has Tricks disappeared in 1977 when he hopped a train to Spokane, Washington with his brother, Clayton “Ross” Has Tricks. Ross returned home to North Dakota, but Blaine was never heard from again and was not reported missing.
Special Agent Molanna Clifford with the Bureau of Indian Affairs obtained DNA from three of Blaine’s relatives. DNA testing of two of Blaine’s nephews confirmed the identification of Marysville Landfill Doe as Blaine Has Tricks, who was born on May 31, 1939, and was 38 years old when he went missing. Old newspaper records place Blaine in Spokane, WA in February 1977 and it is unknown when and how he came to Seattle.
“It means a lot that they didn’t give up,” Tricks’s nephew, Verle Red Tomahawk, told KIRO. “That they were doing their job the way they were supposed to be.”
Tomahawk released a statement for the deceased man’s broader the family as well which was obtained by the Lynnwood Times:
We are thankful for all of the hard work everyone put into getting Blaine identified. Others would have given up a long time ago but you didn’t. We appreciate your persistence. The last members of Blaine’s family are thankful that he was identified and his remains are being sent home to where he belongs.
[image via Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office]
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