DNA identified a man’s remains in Butler County. But how did he die?

Artist rendering of a man who is still unidentified who was found dead May 18, 1997 in the Great Miami River in Fairfield Twp. near Reigart Road.
Artist rendering of a man who is still unidentified who was found dead May 18, 1997 in the Great Miami River in Fairfield Twp. near Reigart Road.

The remains of a man found in the Great Miami River north of Hamilton in 1997 have been identified using DNA.

The Butler County Coroner’s Office and the DNA Doe Project announced the identification of Larry Joe Porter on Monday.

Although the nature of the injuries were consistent with a person hit by a motor vehicle, the cause and manner of death are still undetermined, according to Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix. Porter was 44 at the time of his death and a resident of Dayton.

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The body was found floating in the river south of the Horseshoe Dam in the canal on May 18, 1997. The victim was a white male approximately 5-foot-10 and 130 to 150 pounds. The body was in a severe state of decomposition, according to the coroner’s office.

After attempts to identify the victim did not produce a name, the coroner’s office reached out to the DNA Doe Project in December 2018 for help with the case. University of North Texas Center for Human Identification sent remaining DNA extract to the sequencing lab HudsonAlpha Discovery. Data was uploaded to GEDmatch and later to Family Tree DNA, where the Doe Project team of volunteer genealogists discovered a close family member.

Within hours, the team worked out the connections between the DNA matches.

Team member Megan Street recalls the moment the family tree was finally built out and led to the identification Larry Porter, corroborated by other online clues that seemed to cease in 1996.

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“Every hair on the back of my neck stood up,” Street said.

Margaret Press, CEO and co-founder of the Doe DNA Project, said this is the sixth Ohio Doe case that DDP has helped identify.

“I am proud of the work done by the coroner’s office and the continued commitment which led to resolution of this long-standing case. We are grateful to have identified Mr. Porter and reunited him with his family,” Mannix said.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office has been been investigating for years to determine what happened to the man. Identification could help, according to Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer.

“Cases like this always remain open. But the focus has been identifying him. The reality is the probability of actually solving what happen is probably nil,” Dwyer said. “We would obviously work any lead that came in but we have exhausted most leads that back within the first year it was investigated. It may not even be a crime, he may have fallen.”

If anyone has information about Porter they are asked to call Detective Joe Ventre at 513-785-1239.

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