Skull found on riverbank in 1986 ID’d as missing NJ man

skull
Getty Images

Authorities say a skull found on banks of the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, more than 3 1/2 decades ago has been identified as that of a man long believed slain in New Jersey along with his girlfriend, whose body had been found in the river on the New Jersey side the previous year.

The Bucks County district attorney’s office said Monday that detectives and a private forensic DNA laboratory identified the skull found on the banks of the river in Morrisville in 1986 as that of Richard Thomas Alt, 31, last seen by his parents on Christmas Eve in 1984 and reported missing to Trenton police in early 1985.

District Attorney Matt Weintraub said Alt and his girlfriend were suspected homicide victims in New Jersey. The death of Laurie Suydam, who was found in the river in Trenton in April 1985, is considered an unsolved homicide while Alt’s case has been a missing person’s case, a Mercer County prosecutor’s office spokesperson said Monday.

“I can’t even imagine wondering and worrying about a lost family member for even a day, let alone for 37 years. That wait is now over for Mr. Alt’s family,” Weintraub said in a statement. “I’m just glad that we could give them some peace of mind with this identification, and the eventual return of his remains to his family.”

Weintraub expressed gratitude for technical expertise provided for free by Texas-based Othram Inc., which used forensic genome sequencing and forensic genetic genealogy to identify the skull found by a fisherman in June 1986 on the banks of the river by the Morrisville Boat Ram.

The county coroner’s office entered the skull into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database. In September of last year, detectives sent the skull to Othram after officials of the company based in The Woodlands, Texas, said they had found a possible match on a public genealogy database, prosecutors said.

The DNA contributor, a 49-year-old Florida woman, told detectives Jan. 4 that she was 11 years old when Alt, her father, went missing in Trenton. She agreed to share her DNA results from the genealogy site with Othram, which four days later said the parent/child relationship match had been confirmed, prosecutors said.

Bucks County prosecutors said they consider their investigation closed “due to lack of evidence of any crime being committed in Bucks County.”