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Killer of Michigan woman missing for 33 years identified using genealogy technology, officials say

The identification marks the first known time genealogy technology has been used to name both a victim and a killer, an official said.

The killer of a Michigan woman, who was missing for 33 years, has been identified using genealogy technology, marking the first known time the science has been used to name both the victim and perpetrator in the same case, officials announced Tuesday.

The body of Stacey Lyn Chahorski was found Dec. 16, 1998, about five miles from the Alabama state line on the I-59 highway in Dade County, Georgia.

For years, her identity was unknown. That changed earlier this year when she was identified using genealogy technology.

Chahorski, from Norton Shores, Michigan, was traveling the country when she disappeared. She was reported missing in January 1989 by her mother, the Norton Shores Police Department previously said.

Stacey Lyn Chahorski, who died in 1988.
Stacey Lyn Chahorski, who died in 1988.Georgia Bureau of Investgation

She would have been 52 this year, authorities said.

Details of her death were not shared, but police said she was a homicide victim.

On Tuesday, Georgia officials announced another breakthrough in the case: the name of her killer.

He was identified as Henry Fredrick Wise, also known as Hoss Wise, a truck driver and stunt driver, Keri Farley, the special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta, said during a news conference.

Wise would have been 34 at the time of Chahorski’s death in 1988.

Wise died in 1999 in a car accident at the Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a release. Wise burned to death in the crash.

Officials said Wise had a criminal history in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina but that his arrests predated mandatory DNA testing after a felony arrest.

Farley revealed that after Chahorski was identified through evidence and DNA testing, investigators looked toward naming her killer. 

She said investigators had what was believed to be the killer’s DNA from the scene but for years it could not be linked to a person. 

The FBI sent the DNA to Othram, a private lab in Texas specializing in forensic genealogy, which created a genealogy profile on June 13. With that data, the GBI said it began to interview potential family members and obtained DNA swabs to compare to the profile and identified Wise.

“This case is key because it's the first time that we know of that investigative genealogy was used to identify both the victim and the killer in the same case,” Farley said.

She said that despite the breakthrough, the news “does not ease the pain for Stacey’s family,” but “hopefully it answers some questions.”

Despite solving two major pieces of the case, the motive remains a mystery, Joe Montgomery, special agent in charge of the GBI's Region 1 Investigative Office, said Tuesday.

Wise worked for the Western Carolina trucking company, Montgomery said.

“That route that he would take from the trucking company would have put him through Chattanooga, Nashville and Birmingham, which would have been the direct route to where Stacey was found,” Montgomery said.

He said it’s possible Wise was behind other crimes and his DNA is now in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System. Wise lived at times in the Carolinas and at times in Florida, and he had family in Georgia.

Chahorski's family was not present for the news conference, but Montgomery said telling her mother news that the killer was identified was "overwhelming" and she's "at peace" knowing that he is dead.

DNA and genealogy testing has been increasingly used to solve cold cases. Earlier this year, a cold case killing of a Washington woman was solved thanks to DNA evidence from a cigarette butt left at the scene, also with the help of Othram’s genealogy testing.