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Victim and Suspect in 1988 Murder Case Both Identified Through Genetic Genealogy, Authorities Say

Stacey Lyn Chahorski (left) and Henry Fredrick Wise

Stacey Lyn Chahorski (left) and Henry Fredrick Wise

Authorities say they have identified both the victim and her unknown killer in a murder dating back decades. Investigators are calling this dual identification the first of its kind nationwide, with both victim and suspect being identified in the same case through genetic genealogy.

The victim was missing Michigan woman Stacey Lyn Chahorski, 19. Her killer was Henry Fredrick Wise, a.k.a. Hoss Wise, authorities said. He would have been 34 during the killing. He won’t face justice in criminal court, however. Authorities said that he died in 1999 at the Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina. Wise burned to death in a stunt car accident.

Investigators in Georgia initially only knew Chahorski through the pseudonym Rising Fawn Jane Doe. She was found dead in December 1988 on the side of Interstate 59 in Dade County, on about the very northwest corner of the state. Leads ran cold. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, however, reached out to the FBI, who in turn sought help from DNA testing lab Othram, according to a press statement and press conference.

Investigators were able to use suspect DNA found at the scene, said Keri Farley, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta field office. From there, authorities were able to locate a family member, who was interviewed and had cooperated. Othram confirmed a DNA match, she said.

Wise was a stunt car driver, but he also worked as a truck driver for the Western Carolina trucking company, authorities said. He routinely took a route through Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Nashville, authorities said. This was a direct route to where Chahorski was found, said GBI Special Agent Joe Montgomery. Chattanooga is about northeast near Dade County.

Wise lived sometimes in the Carolinas and sometimes in Florida, and he had family in Georgia, Montgomery said.

“Wise had a criminal history in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, ranging from theft, assault, to obstruction of a police officer,” authorities said. “Wise’s arrests predate mandatory DNA testing after felony arrest.”

There were no results when investigators initially put the suspect DNA in CODIS, they said. Now Wise’s DNA is in the system, and authorities suggest he may pop up if he’s behind other crimes.

Chahorski was identified as Rising Fawn Jane Doe in January. Wise was identified as her killer in June, authorities said.

“Mary Beth Smith, Stacey Chahorski’s mother, expresses gratitude to the FBI, GBI Special Agent Adam Jones for his relentless pursuit of the case, and GBI Forensic Artist Marla Lawson for her work on the composite drawing and clay rendering,” the GBI said. “She also thanks Dade County Sheriff Ray Cross, all the people in Dade County who took care of Stacy as she was brought home to Norton Shores, Michigan, and the Norton Shores Police Department for never giving up on finding her.”

Authorities said Chahorski’s family could not be with them for the press conference on Tuesday, but Montgomery said he had spoken to her mother Mary Beth Smith about the developments. A reporter asked what Smith thought about the killer already being dead.

“She was very at peace with it,” Montgomery said. “Like I said, she got very overwhelmed. Every time we talked, she gets overwhelmed, which is understandable. And this was another overwhelming thing for her to know that he’s facing justice now.”

[Images via FBI]

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