DNA extracted from a skull found in Clayton in 2002 does not match that of Joseph Edwards, a 25-year-old Vidalia motel employee who was believed murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in collaboration with law enforcement personnel in 1964 in Concordia Parish.
Mary Manhein, director of the LSU FACES Laboratory, said Tuesday that a lab in Texas developed a full DNA profile on the skull and determined that it did not match that of family members of Edwards.
"It's been a long process but we now know that the skull is not that of Joseph Edwards," said Manhein, who is renowned nationally for her forensic work and is often called the "Bone Lady."
In 2002, Manhein, accompanied by LSU anthropology students, collected the skull in Clayton and did a brief scan of the area at that time.
In 2008, the Syracuse University College of Law Cold Case Justice Initiative notified Manhein about the Edwards case and raised the possibly that the skull could be part of his remains.
Manhein returned to Clayton and searched the area for additional remains without success.
FACES (Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services) personnel took a DNA sample from Edwards' sister, Julia Dobbins of Bridge City, La., in 2008 as a comparison for the DNA profile of the skull. In 2006, the Louisiana Legislature designated the FACES lab as the central repository for "all unidentified human remains information and all missing person data collected" in the state.
While Manhein and her forensic crew were disheartened that the skull remains unidentified, she said it was beneficial that DNA for both Edwards and the skull have now been entered into CODIS, a national database containing DNA profiles of missing persons.
Edwards worked at the Shamrock Motel in Vidalia in 1964 when his car was found abandoned on the Ferriday-Vidalia Hwy. His mother, Bernice Conner, later reported him missing to the Nathez police and the FBI, according bureau documents.
Billy Bob Williams, a retired FBI agent living in Portland, Ore., was working in Natchez in the summer of 1964 when Conner reported to him that her son was missing and told him, "The Klan got my boy."
Williams told The Sentinel he turned over Edwards' case to the New Orleans' bureau of the FBI, which had jurisdiction in the Concordia case. FBI documents reveal Edwards' alleged involvement with a white woman at the Shamrock may have resulted in his death at the hands of Klansmen and law enforcement.
In a report in 1967, the FBI said that at 11 p.m. on July 11, 1964, Edwards arrived at the Shamrock anticipating a date with a white woman, was sent to a room and 90 minutes later his car was seen being pulled over by a Vidalia patrol car by the bowling alley on the Ferriday-Vidalia Hwy.
Documents show that the FBI believed Edwards "was murdered as a result of police action."
A commercial fisherman, Milton "Ouddie" Boothe of Harrisonburg, told The Sentinel in 2009 that in 1964 on Old River Lake his seine "got hung on an ice box." Inside the ice box, he said he found a slab of flesh that he believed to be human.
In 1967, the FBI asked Boothe to point out the spot and called in divers, who were unable to locate any evidence. The bureau, according to FBI documents, thought the flesh found by Boothe might have been part of Edwards' remains.