Human remains identified

Published 5:18 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

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GARYSBURG – Advanced DNA testing has solved a decades old mystery involving previously unidentified human remains found in 1995 near the Roanoke River in Northampton County.

The remains are identified as Edward Evans, a Northampton County native. The cause of his death was from natural causes.

The effort to identify those remains – which were found by hobbyists using metal detectors while exploring an area along the river near Garysburg on Christmas Eve, 1995 – took a positive turn after Lieutenant Investigator Alan Roye of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office took over the case in December of 2018.

In September of the following year, portions of the skeletal remains were sent to Othram, Inc. in The Woodlands, Texas for further advanced technological DNA processing, which was funded by the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office. With the advanced DNA in place, Othram, Inc. conducted genealogical research funded by the National Center for Missing and Endangered, Inc. based in Jackson, NC.

On Feb. 11, 2021, a match was found in a genealogical database. The match was Orlando Harper of Pittsburgh PA.

Lt. Roye contacted Harper who said he had submitted his DNA in an effort to find out more about his family.

“He (Harper) stated that the deceased is possibly his grandfather, Edward Evans, who was estranged from the family and had not been seen in over 30 years and was never reported missing,” Roye said. “[Evans] was last seen by his grandson, Victor Harper, Orlando’s brother, in 1982 at their home in Salisbury, Maryland.”

Roye added that the family did not know where Edward Evans was living prior to his death.

A DNA swab was obtained from Orlando Harper’s mother, Gladys Evans Harper of Salisbury Maryland. This DNA sample was submitted for comparison. Roye said the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation compiled a family tree based on this information. The DNA of the deceased matched that of Gladys Evans Harper.

Roye added that according to World War II draft records found, Edward Evans was born on March 16, 1906 and at one time was living in the Franklin, VA area. Roye is still trying to locate other information about Edward Evans, to include possible family in Northampton County.

“If anyone has information about the life of Edward Evans, they can contact me at or at the office, 252-534-2611 ext. 7414,” Roye said.

The case file included details of the Dec. 24, 1995 discovery. The individuals using their metal detectors at that time came upon what they thought was a large smooth stone. After picking it up, they discovered that it was a human skull. They called the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office.

Officers responded and upon a closer examination of the area found an intact skeleton. The skeleton was covered with a thin layer of soil and leaves. It was clothed in a pair of brown pants and a dark coat.

The North Carolina SBI was notified and sent agents to the location and assisted the Sheriff’s Office with exhuming the remains. The remains were transported to the North Carolina State Medical Examiner’s Office in Raleigh where an examination was performed. The medical examiner determined that the individual was an approximately 60 – 70-year-old, black male, 5’-9” and would have weighed approximately 150 – 170 pounds. It was determined that the person had been deceased two to three years. All possible missing persons in the area were ruled out.

In 2013, a DNA extraction was performed and the information was loaded in to the NamUS database with no matching results found.

Roye took over the case five years later.

Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith thanked the National Center for Missing and Endangered, Inc. for their assistance and generous donation.

“They are a local organization and are very much appreciated,” Sheriff Smith stated. “The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation have worked closely together for years on this case and their assistance is paramount in cases such as this.”

Smith also thanked the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office for their assistance.

“A special big thanks goes to Othram Inc. for their amazing work in advanced DNA research,” Smith said. “Without them, this person would not have been identified.

“We pray and hope this will bring closure for Mr. Evans’ family. The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office will always do everything it can in similar cases,” Smith concluded.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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