FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Contact: Tony Mangan, Communications Director, 605-773-6878
PIERRE, S.D. – A man who has been without a name for 46 years now has one.
Thanks to the diligent efforts of staff members from the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office and current forensic technology, the body of a deceased male found in the Missouri River near Pierre on Aug. 9, 1976 has now been finally identified.
“Modern Technology has assisted law enforcement in solving this 46-year-old cold case,” said Attorney General Marty Jackley. “An autopsy was conducted which resulted in a probable cause of death by drowning and there is no further evidence of foul play.”
The body was found floating in the Missouri River eight miles east of Farm Island near Pierre. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, and there was no identification on the person. Partial fingerprints were obtained from the individual, but without a potential subject to compare them to, no match could be made.
Ultimately, all efforts to identify the individual which were available to law enforcement at the time had failed and he was buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Pierre as “Unknown Man”. Throughout the years, the gravesite was tended to by Gertrude Stone of Pierre and then later by her daughter, Cheryl Stone, also of Pierre.
In 2020, the now cold case was reopened by Pierre Police Department Detective Trevor Swanson and a permit was obtained from a judge to exhume the remains of the unidentified individual. The remains were disinterred on Oct. 8, 2021, and samples were collected in order to obtain a DNA profile.
In 2022, Detective Swanson started work as a Special Agent with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, but he remained assigned to the case. With assistance from the South Dakota Forensic Laboratory, the unidentified individual’s DNA profile was compared to results found in genetic genealogy databases which resulted in a potential match for 39-year-old Stephen Earl Boice, whose last known address was Seattle, WA.
Investigators obtained a fingerprint card that had been collected from Stephen on Feb.15, 1962. The South Dakota Forensic Laboratory compared Stephen’s fingerprint card to the fingerprints collected from the unidentified individual and determined that they were made by the same person.
Investigators contacted Stephen’s closest living relatives, informed them of efforts to identify the body, and delivered the death notification. At their request, Stephen’s remains were reinterred last fall at Riverside Cemetery. The internment ceremony was attended by members of the Attorney General’s Office, law enforcement, and the Pierre Police Department Chaplin.
A permanent headstone marker was placed at the gravesite in April..
“I want to thank everyone who spent so much time on this case,” said Attorney General Jackley. “Thanks to them, this family now has some closure about what happened to their loved one.”
The Division of Criminal Investigation and the state Forensic Lab are part of the Attorney General’s Office.