NORTHAMPTON Co., N.C. - Human remains that were found in Northampton County nearly three decades ago have been identified as those of a World War II veteran.
On December 24, 1995, metal detectorists were near the Roanoke River in the Garysburg, North Carolina, when they came upon what they thought was a large, smooth stone. After picking it up, they discovered that it was a human skull and called the Northampton County Sheriff's Office.
Officers responded, and upon a closer examination of the area, authorities found an intact skeleton. The skeleton was covered with a thin layer of soil and leaves, and it was clothed in a pair of brown pants and a dark coat.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was notified and sent agents to the location to help the sheriff's office with exhuming the remains.
The remains were transported to the North Carolina State Medical Examiner's Office in Raleigh, where an examination was performed. The medical examiner determined that the deceased was an approximately 60- to 70-year-old Black male who was 5'9" tall and would have weighed about 150 - 170 pounds.
It was determined that the person had been dead for two to three years.
All possible missing persons in the area were ruled out.
In 2013, a DNA extraction was performed, and the information was loaded into the NamUS database with no matching results found. In December 2018, Lieutenant Investigator Alan Roye of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office took over the case.
In September 2019, portions of the skeletal remains were sent to Othram, Inc. in The Woodlands, Texas, for further advanced technological DNA processing, which was funded by the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office. With the advanced DNA in place, Othram, Inc. conducted genealogical research funded by the National Center for Missing and Endangered, Inc. in Jackson, North Carolina.
On February 11, 2021, a match was found in a genealogical database: Orlando Harper of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Roye contacted Harper, who told him that he had submitted his DNA because he was doing research to find out more about his family. Harper said that the deceased man is possibly his grandfather, Edward Evans, who was estranged from the family and had not been seen in more 30 years and was never reported missing.
Evans was last seen by his grandson Victor Harper, Orlando’s brother, in 1982 at their home in Salisbury, Maryland.
A DNA swab was obtained from Gladys Evans Harper of Salisbury, Maryland, Orlando's mother. This DNA sample was submitted for comparison.
The North Carolina SBI compiled a family tree based on this information and found that the DNA of the human remains matched that of Gladys.
The deceased is officially identified as Edward Evans, Gladys' father and Orlando's grandfather.
According to World War II draft records, Edward Evans was born on March 16, 1906, in Northampton County and was then living in Franklin, Virginia.
Roye is still trying to find other information about Edward, such as family in Northampton County.
Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith thanked the National Center for Missing and Endangered, Inc., the North Carolina SBI, the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office and Othram Inc. for their assistance in this investigation and DNA identification.
“We pray and hope this will bring closure for Mr. Evans’ family," Sheriff Smith said.