The skull of a man found on the banks of the Delaware River in Morrisville in 1986 has been linked to a missing Trenton man from 1984, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub announced in a statement Monday.
The skull belonged to Richard Thomas Alt, who was 31 when he was reported missing to the Trenton Police Department in early 1985. He was last seen by his parents on Christmas Eve 1984.
Bucks County Detectives and Othram Inc., a private Texas-based forensic DNA lab, used forensic genome sequencing and forensic genetic genealogy to identify the skull.
At the time of his disappearance, Alt and his girlfriend were suspected murder victims in New Jersey. Her body was discovered in April 1985 in the Delaware River in Trenton. The cases remain unresolved, according to the Mercer County Attorney’s Office.
The investigation first began in June 1986 when a fisherman found a human skull on the banks of the Delaware River at the Morrisville Boat Ramp. The fisherman lived in Buckingham Township and took the skull to the Buckingham Township Police Department.
Bucks County detectives took possession of the human skull in October 2019 during an investigation into a homicide investigation, but then turned it over to the Bucks County Coroner’s Office. Later that year, the Bucks County Coroner’s Office entered the skull in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) database.
Othram officials profiled a contributor to this database and believed the skull belonged to Alt. Bucks County detectives spoke with the actor Jan. 4, a 49-year-old woman from Florida.
The woman told detectives she was 11 when her father, Alt, went missing in Trenton. She said her father’s friend was murdered in 1985 and her father has not been seen since.
She agreed to share her DNA results from the genealogy website with Othram. Four days later, Othram returned to Alt with a confirmed parent-child relationship match.
“I can’t imagine wondering and worrying about a lost family member for even a day, let alone 37 years. The wait is now over for Mr. Alt’s family,” said Weintraub. “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.”
“I hope that this powerful combination of technology and genealogy will become the template for solving current and contemporary cases now and in the future,” said Weintraub.