Decades-old cold case murder victims identified

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office detectives said they have finally identified the bodies of two murder victims who were reported missing more than 40 years ago.

Investigators were able to identify Alice Lou Williams, who was reported missing in 1981, and a man named Blaine Has Tricks whose remains were discovered in the Marysville landfill in 1977 by a bulldozer operator.

Has Tricks’ death was ruled a homicide in 1977 although it was not immediately clear how he died.

Williams, whose partial remains were discovered by U.S. Forest Service surveyors in a steep forested ravine north of Skykomish in October 2009, was just identified this past week.

Williams’s death was classified as suspicious after a forensic anthropology exam uncovered the presence of trauma and because of where her skull was found, according to a summary from DNASolves.com.

During the more than 40 years, investigators said they searched for clues to figure out the victims’ identities, but it was just in the last few weeks that they got a break in the cases.

“We are here today to discuss and announce a break in two homicide cold cases,” Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney said during a media briefing on Thursday.

Due to genealogical DNA, investigators got the help they needed to crack both cases; and those advances in DNA technology are being used as tools to crack more cases.

“I planned on retiring June 30 of 2019 and in 2018 when I realized what a great tool this was, I knew more cases could be solved,” Detective Jim Scharf with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said.

Until recently, investigators said DNA evidence mainly came from a victim or a suspect; but thanks to family DNA sites like Family Tree, investigators said critical evidence is now being provided by the victims’ family members.

“Any day, it’s like the lottery. Somebody else could upload their DNA and we could get a brother that we matched,” Scharf said.

“They’ll often tell another investigator that their case had a breakthrough using this method and those folks will reach out to us,” said David Mittelman, the CEO of Othram Inc.

Now that the victims have been identified through a collaboration of science and steadfast detective work, it has led to closure for the families.

“It means a lot that they didn’t give up. That they were doing their job the way they were supposed to be,” Has Tricks’ nephew Verle Red Tomahawk said.