Vietnam vet’s remains ID’d nearly 50 years after being found in Arizona

Human remains discovered 49 years ago near Flagstaff, Arizona, have been identified as a man who served in Vietnam and was originally from Minnesota, authorities said Wednesday.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office announced in a news release that the remains were those of Gerald Francis Long. Long’s cause of death was not determined in 1975 and cannot be determined today, according to the release.

Gerald Francis Long.Coconino County Sheriff’s Office via Facebook

The skeletal remains, first discovered April 19, 1975, were found off Meteor City Road, about 40 miles east of Flagstaff, when farmers were chasing a runaway pig, officials said.

Multiple leads were developed in the time since the remains were found, the CCSO said, but none of them led to a positive identification.

In August 2023, the CCSO worked with a Salt Lake City, Utah, company to identify the remains through a genetic genealogy process, according to the release. Using the company’s technology, a DNA profile was developed for the remains, allowing experts to trace a family line. This led them in February to the possibility that the remains were Long’s.

From there, CCSO detectives contacted a living family member of Long’s, who told them that Long enlisted in the Army in 1969 and was deployed to Vietnam that same year. Long returned to Minnesota in February 1972 and was discharged one month later, officials said in the release.

The CCSO said officials then used partial fingerprints collected from the remains in 1975 and matched them with other existing fingerprints on record for Long, which produced a positive match. A family DNA sample from this month confirmed the remains belonged to Long.

In October 1972, Long told his family he was leaving Minnesota for the West Coast, the release said. That was the last time Long’s family had seen or heard from him.

The sheriff’s office said his family has requested privacy.

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