CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has identified a deceased individual almost a year after their foot was discovered in Charleston Harbor. The body, though, has still not been recovered.
Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal shared how the department was able to identify the deceased person during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Amid in-house research, O’Neal said her office sent a DNA sample to the University of North Texas on November 3rd, 2020 hoping to gather a DNA profile that could be uploaded into an index system connecting to the FBI’s Criminal Justice DNA database.
The case took a turn in March of this year when a left foot was found, along with the same style shoe, and it was evaluated by the coroner’s office to identify who that person was.
“Knowing that there is a huge backlog in forensic DNA, Chief Deputy Coroner Britney Martin researched ways we could do some genetic DNA testing in order to try to figure out who this individual was,” said O’Neal.
On June 21st, the coroner’s office sent a sample to a Texas-based lab, Othram Inc. where they were able to obtain a genealogical profile and compare it to DNA databases where individuals had uploaded their DNA.
“We were able to develop these large DNA profiles that consist of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of markers. You can build these profiles from some of the most challenging evidence,” says David Mittelman, CEO of Othram Inc.
“The comparison was so close they believed they had a sibling,” she said. That relative advised they had a biological sister, who resided in Charleston and had gone missing.
The deceased individual was identified as 57-year-old Janet Robinson – a mother, sister and daughter.
Coroner O’Neal said Robinson’s death is under investigation and they do not have any additional answers in the case. “We are hoping that at some point we will be able to find additional remains so we can determine a cause and manner of death,” she said.
She said feet coming apart from the body is a natural part of the breakdown process. Still, it remains unclear how she died.
Family members who live in Mississippi shared a statement saying, “Our family would like to thank the public for notifying authorities and submitting any leads that helped this missing person case for our loved one, Janet Robinson. If there is any additional information to offer us, to add any additional closure, please submit that information to law enforcement.”
Robinson was last seen on August 3rd of 2020. “We know that at one point she was in the Goose Creek area. We believed she moved from the Goose Creek area into Charleston- we are trying to locate specifically where she was living.”
Anyone with information can call the Charleston County Coroner’s Office at 843-746-4030.