How officials used a new DNA project to identify skeletal remains found in West Chester 4 years ago

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Wilhelm brothers talk about finding human remains in the woods near their home in 2015. Woman was identified as Darlene Norcross 4 years later.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Four years after her skull was found by children in West Chester Twp., the skeletal remains have been identified as that of a local woman, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office.

The Butler County Coroner’s Office and West Chester Police announced on Thursday that Darlene Norcross, 61, is the woman whose remains were discovered on Mach 7, 2015.

“Today is a good day for us,” said County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix. She was joined during press conference by forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray of Mount St. Joseph University, West Chester Police Lt. David Tivin, Detective Travis Oakes and coroner’s investigator Clint Nigg.

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Brothers Parker, Cole and Caleb Wilhelm found a skull in the woods behind their Gregory Creek Lane home in West Chester Twp. Rain and snow made finding additional remains difficult, Mannix said. But when the weather cleared, all of the woman’s remains were collected, along with other items believed to have belonged to her.

The human remains found in a wooded area along Tylersville Road in 2015, were identified as Darlene Norcross during a press conference by the Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix, West Chester Police and forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray from Mount St. Joseph University Thursday, March 7 in Hamilton. Dr. Lisa Mannix identified the decessed as Darlene Norcross during the press conference. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
The human remains found in a wooded area along Tylersville Road in 2015, were identified as Darlene Norcross during a press conference by the Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix, West Chester Police and forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray from Mount St. Joseph University Thursday, March 7 in Hamilton. Dr. Lisa Mannix identified the decessed as Darlene Norcross during the press conference. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

A biological profile was developed of the remains, facial reconstruction was developed and DNA profiles were put into national databases to look for associations with missing persons’ DNA, Mannix said. Dental implants found with the remains were also sent for comparison to more that 200 dental offices.

But there were still no leads for years, Mannix said.

“In 2018, Dr. Murray approached me about a new forensic DNA project that we might be able to utilize,” Mannix said.

The program, DNA Doe Project, involves volunteer genetic genealogists developing family trees based on DNA submitted to GEDMatch. Earlier this week, positive identification was made after family reference samples were provided and dental records were obtained.

Mannix said Norcross’ family has been helpful, but “has asked for their privacy in this situation.”

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The coroner said Norcross has been laid to rest and reunited with her family.

There is no cause and manner of death for Norcross, and the case remains open. Tivin said it is a death investigation, but there was no signs of trauma to the body.

The human remains found in a wooded area along Tylersville Road in 2015, were identified as Darlene Norcross during a press conference by the Butler County Coroner’s office, West Chester Police and forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray from Mount St. Joseph University Thursday, March 7 in Hamilton. Dr. Lisa Mannix identified the decessed as Darlene Norcross during the press conference. Pictured, left to right, West Chester Twp. Police Lt. David Tivin, forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray from Mount St. Joseph University, Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix, West Chester Twp. Police Det. Travis Oaks and Butler County Coroner’s office investigator Clint Nigg. GRAHAM/STAFF
The human remains found in a wooded area along Tylersville Road in 2015, were identified as Darlene Norcross during a press conference by the Butler County Coroner’s office, West Chester Police and forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray from Mount St. Joseph University Thursday, March 7 in Hamilton. Dr. Lisa Mannix identified the decessed as Darlene Norcross during the press conference. Pictured, left to right, West Chester Twp. Police Lt. David Tivin, forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray from Mount St. Joseph University, Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix, West Chester Twp. Police Det. Travis Oaks and Butler County Coroner’s office investigator Clint Nigg. GRAHAM/STAFF

Norcross was not reported missing, according to officials.

“I don’t know why she wasn’t reported missing,” Mannix said. “The important thing for anyone out there, if you have someone that’s missing, report them.”

Norcross was married on the East Coast, got a divorce and moved to West Chester Twp. on her own, said Tivin.

“She lived in a condo on her own, no children, her parents had passed away so there were really no relatives,” Tivin said. “It is unfortunate, I mean she was somebody’s neighbor, she was somebody’s friend and they all chose not to wonder where she went.”

Anyone with information about Norcross is asked to call the West Chester Police Department at 513-777-2231.

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