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Ohio homicide detectives investigate two deaths as DNA helps identify skull and bones found decades ago

Cold-case investigations identify a John Doe from decades ago in Ohio. (Screenshot of news conference from CBS affiliate WKBN27 in Youngstown, Ohio)

Cold-case investigations identify a John Doe from decades ago in Ohio as Robert Sanders. (Screenshot of news conference from CBS affiliate WKBN27 in Youngstown, Ohio)

Ohio authorities said this week they finally have identified two men whose remains were found decades ago in Ohio, thanks to DNA and a tipster long haunted by a “John Doe.”

Theodore “Teddy” Long’s remains were found in 1981 in Fayette County, Ohio. The skull and bones of Robert “Earl” Sanders were found on Sept. 10, 1987, by a grandfather and grandson who were squirrel hunting in the woods near a cemetery in Mahoning County, Ohio.

Investigators hope they can solve their deaths.

“It gives us some comfort that we no longer have to refer to this person by a location, but instead his name: Teddy Long,” Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said in a statement. “Our condolences go out to the family who has been looking for 41 years to identify their loved one.”

“Now our work begins to solve a homicide,” the sheriff added.

Authorities credited a 3D rendering of a facial reconstruction of Sanders’ skull unveiled last August for jump-starting the cold case.

Tips poured into the Youngstown Police Department. One led to the identification of Theodore Long, 19.

Authorities identified Sanders with the help of genetic genealogy research funded by the Porchlight Project, a nonprofit supporting families of missing and murdered persons.

Robert Sanders, 23, was reported missing on Aug. 13, 1976. But no leads revealed his whereabouts until 11 years later when his remains were discovered. It took 34 more years for a woman to come forward and provide information.

That woman, Alisa Yelkin, was a student in an anthropology class at Youngstown State University 20 years ago when police asked the university to help identify the man only known then as John Doe.

“We have all met someone in our lives that stick with us,” Yelkin said in a news conference on Monday. “It’s just their face, their attitude, whoever they are. You can’t forget them.”

“In the early 2000s, I saw my person in a forensic anthropology class. He wasn’t sitting next to me, though. Rather, he was in front of me in what appeared to be a lost and found box with the most amazing smile I’d ever seen,” the witness continued. “I wondered forever who he was. I wondered what he looked like. And he haunted me.”

Anyone with information regarding Long is encouraged to contact the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office at 740-335-6170. Anyone with information regarding Sanders is encouraged to contact the Youngstown Police Department at 330-742-8900.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

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