Skull found on river bank in 1986 and identified as missing NJ man

Authorities say a skull found more than 3 1/2 decades ago on the banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania has been identified as that of a man long believed to have been killed along with his girlfriend in New Jersey was, whose body had been found in the river on the New Jersey side the previous year.

Bucks County prosecutors said Monday that detectives and a private forensic DNA lab identified the skull, found on the banks of the river in Morrisville in 1986, as that of Richard Thomas Alt, 31, who was last known to his parents Christmas Eve 1984 was reported missing to Trenton Police in early 1985.

District Attorney Matt Weintraub said Alt and his girlfriend are alleged murder victims in New Jersey. The death of Laurie Suydam, who was found in the river in Trenton in April 1985, is considered an unsolved homicide, while Alt’s case was a missing persons case, a spokesman for the Mercer County Attorney’s Office said Monday.

“I can’t imagine wondering and worrying about a lost family member for even a day, let alone 37 years. That wait is now over for Mr Alt’s family,” Weintraub said in a statement. “I’m just glad that with that identification and the eventual return of his remains to his family, we were able to give them some peace of mind.”

Weintraub expressed his gratitude for the technical expertise made available at no cost by Texas-based Othram Inc., who used forensic genome sequencing and forensic genetic genealogy to identify the skull found by a fisherman in June 1986 on the banks of the River was found at the Morrisville Boat Ram.

The county coroner’s office entered the skull into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database. Last September, detectives shipped the skull to Othram after officials at the The Woodlands, Texas-based company said they had found a possible match in a public genealogy database, prosecutors said.

The DNA worker, a 49-year-old Florida woman, told detectives Jan. 4 that she was 11 when Alt, her father, disappeared in Trenton. She agreed to share her DNA results from the genealogy website with Othram, who said four days later the match of the parent-child relationship was confirmed, prosecutors said.

The Bucks County Attorney’s Office said it considered its investigation closed “because there is no evidence of a crime committed in Bucks County.”

This story was originally published January 30, 2023 1:10 p.m.