44-year-old murder mystery of man found in septic tank solved using genetic technology

‘He was separated from his family at nine years old and placed in foster care,’ Canadian police said about the man found dead on a farm in 1977

Clara Hill
Friday 02 July 2021 15:02
Comments
<p>Edwin Sanderson was recently identified was the victim of an unsolved murder in 1977</p>

Edwin Sanderson was recently identified was the victim of an unsolved murder in 1977

Forensic technology has unearthed the identity of a murder victim discovered in a septic tank 44 years ago in Canada, according to local authorities.

The Alberta Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said the remains were of Gordon Edwin Sanderson, an Indigenous man, believed to be in his twenties, originally from Manitoba. At the time of his death, he had been living in Edmonton, according to the police.

“He was known as Gordie to his family and friends,” Sargent Jason Zazulak said at a press conference.

“Gordie had a hard life. He was separated from his family at nine years old and during the ‘60s Scoop and placed in foster care.”

The ‘60s Scoop refers to a government policy in Canada that removed thousands of child from Indigenous communities from their families and put them into care homes.

Recently in Canada, there has been a push for action from the government over the injustice faced by Indigenous communities. In November 2020, the 60s Scoop Healing Foundation was established with the intention to create “deeper knowledge and empathy for survivors’ experiences and histories.“ This included being split up from families, a loss of cultural heritage, and other injustices. Survivors and their families have become outspoke about the trauma it still causes.

Mr Sanderson “struggled with addictions and had various run-ins with the police,” Sgt. Zazulak said.

At the time of his initial discovery in 1977, police had determined Mr Sanderson had been abused, both physically and sexually after his body was uncovered on a farm in septic tank. This was 43 miles away from where he had been living in April 1977 in Tofield.

To uncover the truth about the remains, they used the same methods as to figure out the identity of the Golden State Killer; genetic genealogy. The process began last year when the authorities in Alberta sent DNA samples to Texas to be studied in Othram Labs. They checked the police samples against other DNA samples to determine Mr Sanderson’s family history by finding genetic matches, finding out he had a sister, Joyce Sanderson.

Before doing this, investigators had attempted to create a 3D model of what he face might have looked like in order to identify Mr Sanderson.

According to Sgt. Zazulak, he was “last heard of by family when he was going to meet his younger brother, Arthur, in Calgary.”

He also said his identity was confirmed in January, and prompted an active murder investigation, but admitted the killer could be dead by now.

“Between the passages of time and just some of the lifestyles that people were involved with at the time as well, it’s just very possible that they have passed away,” he said.

Sgt. Zazulak said would use this approach in other cold cases.

It became a notable way of identifying people in police work following during the case of The Golden State Killer. Through using genetic genealogy, police were able to find out that his real name was Joseph DeAngelo through civilians uploading DNA samples to see if they matched what the police had on file

DeAngelo was arrested in 2018 and pleaded guilty to 13 counts of murder in June 2020, with the rest of his crimes having lapsed under statutes of limitations.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in