Killer of Michigan woman missing for 33 years identified using genealogical technology

The killer of a Michigan woman who had been missing for 33 years has been identified using genealogical technology, marking the first known time science has been used to identify both the victim and the perpetrator in the same case, officials announced Tuesday.

The body of Stacey Lyn Chahorski was found on December 16, 1998, about five miles from the Alabama state line on I-59 in Dade County, Georgia.

For years, her identity was unknown. That changed earlier this year when it was identified using genealogical technology.

Chahorski, of Norton Shores, Michigan, was traveling cross-country when she disappeared. Her mother was reported missing in January 1989, the Norton Shores Police Department previously reported.

Stacey Lyn Chahorski, who died in 1988. (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)

He would have been 52 this year, authorities said.

Details of her death were not released, but police said she was the victim of a homicide.

On Tuesday, Georgia officials announced another breakthrough in the case — the name of her killer.

He was identified as Henry Fredrick Wise, also known as Hoss Wise, a truck driver and stuntman, FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley said during a news conference.

Wise would have been 34 at the time of Chahorski’s murder 1988.

Wise died in a 1999 car accident at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a release. Wise was burned to death in the crash.

Officials said Wise had criminal records in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, but his arrests preceded mandatory DNA testing after a felony arrest.

Farley revealed that after Chahorski was identified through evidence and DNA testing, investigators sought to name her killer.

He said investigators had what was believed to be the killer’s DNA from the scene, but for years it could not be linked to an individual.

The FBI sent the DNA to Othram, a private lab in Texas that specializes in forensic genealogy, which created a genealogical profile on June 13. With this data, the GBI began interviewing possible family members and obtained DNA samples to compare to the profile and identified Wise.

“This case is of critical importance because it is the first time that we know of that investigative genealogy has been used to identify both the victim and the killer in the same case,” Farley said.

He said that despite the discovery, the news “doesn’t ease the pain for Stacey’s family” but “hopefully it will answer some questions.”

Despite solving two major pieces of the case, the motive remains a mystery, Joe Montgomery, special agent in charge of the GBI’s District 1 Bureau of Investigation, said Tuesday.

Wise worked for the trucking company in Western Carolina, Montgomery said.

“That route he would take from the trucking company would take him through Chattanooga, Nashville and Birmingham, which would be the direct route to where Stacey was found,” Montgomery said.

He said it’s possible Wise was behind other crimes and his DNA is now in the FBI’s Combined DNA Indicator System. Wise lived sometimes in the Carolinas and sometimes in Florida, and had family in Georgia.

Chahorski’s family was not present at the press conference, but Montgomery said her mother’s news that the killer had been identified was “overwhelming” and that she is “calm” to know he is dead.

DNA and genealogy tests are increasingly being used to solve cold cases. Earlier this year, a cold case in the murder of a woman in Washington was solved thanks to DNA evidence from a cigarette butt left at the scene, also with the help of Othram’s genealogy.

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