In a significant breakthrough, human remains found in North Carolina in 1990 have been identified as Lisa Coburn Kesler, a 20-year-old from Jackson County, Georgia, through the application of genetic genealogy. Investigators estimate Kesler was strangled about a week before her discovery on I-40 East, near New Hope Church Road in Chapel Hill.
While attempts to identify Lisa spanned three decades—employing methods from forensic facial reconstructions to social media-based illustrations—success remained elusive. The game-changer was the emergence of genetic genealogy. Forensic genealogist Leslie Kaufman identified cousins from Lisa’s paternal lineage. Interviews revealed Lisa Kesler had been missing from the family for years. DNA from a potential maternal relative further solidified the connection.
The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office updated Lisa’s death certificate with her rightful name and details. Sheriff Charles Blackwood expressed gratitude to those involved and emphasized their commitment to solving cold cases. “Throughout the decades, our investigators persevered, exploring every avenue, waiting for the next technological advancement,” Blackwood said. “Now that Ms. Kesler’s identity is known, our focus shifts to finding her killer. Justice may be delayed, but it never expires.”