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Remains, found in Lincoln, identified more than 9 years later

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 11:32 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2022 at 9:47 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Ala. (WBRC) - After more than nine years after her body was found in Lincoln, a woman’s remains have been identified.

The remains, found on May 5, 2012, are those of Jean Turner Ponders of Roswell, Georgia. She was born April 14, 1945. Lincoln Police said her cause of death was determined by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences to have been from lung cancer.

The case began when a Talladega County deputy and a reserve officer working at the Racetrack during race week located human remains behind an abandoned house on Allred Road.

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There was no identification and the body was too decomposed to collect fingerprints. She was entered into NCIC and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons system, also known as Namus, in August of 2012 when it was determined that her description did not match any local missing persons cases and the case went cold.

Lincoln Police said if not for assistance from Othram, Inc., located in Texas, which is a forensic sequencing laboratory for law enforcement and a forensic genetic genealogist named Carla Davis, this would be a cold case.

“We remove noise or anything that might give you extra matches uploaded to those genealogical databases,” Othram Chief Business Development Officer Dr. Kristen Mittelman said. “By being able to know the age and sort of identity of this person and their biogeographical origins and what family trees they belong to, you can piece together where that puzzle goes.”

Lincoln Police Captain Shannon Hallmark said Ms. Ponder’s family is “very grateful for the work put into this case by Lincoln Police Investigations, Othram Inc., and Carla Davis, the forensic genetic genealogist. Now that they know where she is at, they can start the healing process.”

“Having to wait half a century, twenty years, or ten years to find out what happened to your loved one is torture,” Mittelman said.

Othram released these statements: “The Othram Inc. Team was happy to assist the Lincoln Police Department in giving Jean Turner Ponders her name back. This is a great collaboration of Capt. Shannon Hallmark’s investigation, Carla Davis’ generosity and efforts in Genealogy, and Othram’s advanced DNA testing platform utilizing Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing[] that helped return Ms. Ponders to her family.” - Michael Vogen | Director of Case Management

“The National Institute of Justice refers to the tens of thousands of unidentified persons in our country as the “silent mass disaster.” Our primary mission is to reconnect missing and unidentified people to family. However, many of these unidentified, including Ms Ponders, are victims of crimes and identifying them allows for justice to be sought out on their behalf. It is a key mission at Othram to build and scale technology that can allow all agencies to work through their backlogs of unidentified remains.” - David Mittelman - Othram CEO

Lincoln Police officers said, “We would like to thank mayor Watson, the Lincoln City Council and all others who donated funds to help pay for the lab testing on dnasolves.com. Because of all this assistance and hundreds of investigative hours put in by Lincoln police investigators over the years, Ms. Ponders has her identity back. Also, we would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of Ms. Ponders and we want her family to know that the case is still open as we are still trying to determine the circumstances that led to her remains being placed here.”

If you have any information concerning Ms. Jean Turner Ponders and the circumstances leading up to her remains being left in our city, please contact Capt. Shannon Hallmark with Lincoln Police at 205-763-4064 or Inv. Demarco Willis at 205-763-4070.

WBRC’s Morgan Hightower followed up on this story in December of 2020. You can watch her report here.

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