The wilderness of Alaska can be a dangerous place, as one family discovered 45 years ago when their son, Gary Frank Sotherden, disappeared while hunting in the Arctic Circle. After years of searching, his remains have finally been found – and the cause of death was more grisly than anyone could have imagined. In this blog post, we’ll explore the story of Gary Sotherden and how his remains were finally identified after all these years.
It all began in the summer of 1997, when a hunter discovered a human skull along the Porcupine River in northeastern Alaska. The skull was sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office, but the remains went unidentified for over two decades. That changed in April 2022, when DNA extracted from the bone was used to tentatively link the remains to Gary Frank Sotherden of New York.
Investigators used genetic genealogy to make the link, which is a similar tactic that’s recently been used to solve a number of cold case murders. They contacted a potential relative of Sotherden, who was happy to provide a DNA sample that confirmed the skull belonged to the missing man.
The state troopers said the suspected cause of death was a bear mauling. Sotherden’s brother Stephen described him as a free spirit, and while he’s happy that Gary’s story has an ending, some aspects of his death were darker than the family had expected.
This story of a man lost and found in the wilderness of Alaska is a reminder of the dangers that lurk in the wild. It’s also a testament to the power of DNA analysis and genealogy to solve long-standing mysteries. We hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of the story of Gary Frank Sotherden and the power of DNA to bring closure to a family after so many years.