by: Kevin McCarty Updated:PURDY, Wash. —
A skeleton found dumped along State Route 16 in Purdy nearly 20 years ago has been identified.
The remains of Darrell J. Hill, 30, were discovered in a ditch along the highway near mile marker 14 in Purdy on December 23, 1994. He had been shot in the head several times.
But identifying Hill’s remains took decades. “At the time technology didn’t exist like it does today,” said Pierce County Medical Examiner’s investigator Melissa Baker. “He was never identified.”
Roadblocks to identifying Hill cropped up from the very beginning. His skeleton was misidentified as female. DNA was run in a national database in the 1990s and again in 2009 but never came up with a match. Eventually Hill’s remains were reexamined and determined to be male.
Hill had been reported missing from Los Angeles in March 1993 under what police called suspicious circumstances. Detectives with the LAPD finally developed a possible connection between Hill and the skeleton found along the highway. They asked for a DNA sample from Pierce County that could be compared against DNA from Hill’s son, who was an infant at the time of his disappearance. The DNA matched.
“It’s equivalent to a paternity test,” said Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark.
The identification has not solved Hill’s murder, or brought investigators any closer to determining why he was murdered and how he ended up so far from his home in southern California.
Hill’s family was notified recently that his remains had been identified and that they would be sent back to L.A. for burial.
“They’re very excited that this chapter of their life is closed and they can put him to rest,” said Baker.