DNA Breakthrough: Body Found in 1999 Kentucky Lake Identified as Fugitive Accused of Rape

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
December 19, 2023US News
DNA Breakthrough: Body Found in 1999 Kentucky Lake Identified as Fugitive Accused of Rape
Kentucky State Police have identified remains found in Lake Barkley nearly 24 years ago as rape suspect Roger Dale Parham. (Kentucky State Police)

The body of a man hauled in from a Kentucky lake 24 years ago has now been identified by police as a suspected rapist.

Two fishermen found the body wrapped in heavy tire chains and anchored with a hydraulic jack from Lake Barkley, located in Lyon County, on May 6, 1999, said forensic group DNASolves.

Police, through forensic DNA technology, have now identified the dead man as Roger Dale Parham, who had been charged with rape involving a minor, according to the FBI.

Kentucky State Police (KSP) said the man’s death is now being investigated as a homicide. The man was 52 years old at the time of his death.

Other than determining general features like sex, race, approximate height, and weight, the original forensic analysis failed to identify the man.

A forensic 3-D model depicting how he may have looked was created and released to the public to identify him, but to no avail.

In 2016, the man’s body was exhumed in hopes that further examinations would lead to an identification.

“Despite extensive efforts using DNA technology, dental examinations, forensic pathology, and other advanced forensic testing, the man remained unidentified,” KSP said.

In 2021, KSP released a number of photos of the man’s clothes, including a black and blue size 10 Nike Air Max shoe, a pair of gray, size medium thermal pants, a pair of black size 36 jeans, and a black belt. But this also did not bring investigators any closer to an identification.

Forensic Lab in Texas

This year, KSP submitted forensic evidence to Othram, a private forensic lab in Texas, which was able to source a DNA extract from the remains. They then used the company’s patented genome sequencing technology to map a comprehensive DNA profile for the man.

The team at Othram used the DNA profile in a genetic genealogy search to look for potential relatives. Using these new leads, KSP was able to find a relative of the murdered man.

This led to the identification of Mr. Parham, a Fort Smith, Arkansas, resident at the time of his disappearance.

According to the FBI, Mr. Parham had been arrested for rape involving a minor in November 1998. He was released on bond with conditions. When he failed to attend a court date in March 1999, it was believed he had fled to Mexico to escape prosecution. His remains were fished up several weeks later in the Kentucky lake.

A bench arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Parham on June 3, and a federal arrest warrant followed in September 1999. An FBI wanted poster described Mr Parham “as being very charming.”

In a statement, KSP wrote that Mr. Parham’s precise cause of death is unknown.

“However, due to the suspicious circumstances in which the remains were found, this case is being investigated as a homicide,” KSP wrote in a statement.

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