Mysterious disappearance of explorer Everett Ruess solved after 75 years

May 1st, 2009 - 2:38 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic Washington, May 1 (ANI): Scientists have solved the mysterious disappearance of Everett Ruess, a 20-year-old artist, writer and footloose explorer who wandered the Southwest in the early 1930s.

The short, compelling life of Ruess, who went missing in 1934 after leaving the town of Escalante, Utah, has been the subject of much speculation.

An investigative article in the April/May issue of National Geographic Adventure by David Roberts, who had been probing the Ruess disappearance for years, indicates that a Navajo man, Aneth Nez, told his granddaughter, Daisy Johnson, in 1971 that he witnessed the murder of a young white man near Bluff, Utah, in the 1930s by Ute Indians.

Nez told her that he buried the body in a crevasse on nearby Comb Ridge.

Roberts reported that in May 2008, Denny Belson, grandson of Nez and sister of Johnson, located the burial site and contacted the FBI in Monticello, Utah.

Roberts then contacted Ron Maldano, the supervisory archaeologist at the Cultural Resource Compliance Section of the Navajo Nation based in Chimney Rock, Arizona, who conducted a detailed examination of the burial site and determined the remains were likely Caucasian.

He then contacted CU-Boulder anthropology Professor Dennis Van Gerven, who traveled to the site with doctoral student Paul Sandberg, excavated the remains, and did an analysis of teeth and bones to determine the sex, age and stature of the person.

Wisdom tooth eruption, pelvic structure, bone growth markers and femur length indicated it was a male roughly 20 years old and about 5 feet 8 inches tall - a virtual match for Ruess, according to Van Gerven.

Then, Van Gerven contacted CU-Boulder molecular, cellular and developmental biology Professor Kenneth Krauter, an expert in DNA analysis.

High-tech “gene chips,” or microarrays provided Krauter and CU-Boulder research assistant Helen Marshall with 600,000 separate DNA markers from the femur DNA.

These were compared with roughly the same number of DNA markers extracted from saliva samples taken from the two nieces and two nephews of Ruess.

The results showed the nieces and nephews of Ruess shared about 50 percent of the genetic markers with each other, and all four shared about 25 percent of the DNA markers from the femur bone samples.

The results from the DNA comparisons from the 50 random people from around the world showed a less than 1 percent match, according to Krauter.

“It was almost exactly what geneticists would expect when comparing DNA between nieces and nephews and an uncle or an aunt,” said Krauter.

“This is entirely consistent with the hypothesis that the bones are those of Everett Ruess, and make it virtually impossible that the bones are from an unrelated individual,” he added. (ANI)

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