Working in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Justice (WDJ), the DNA Doe Project (DDP) has identified the remains recovered from a wooded area south of Barron, Wisconsin in December 2017 as those of Gary Albert Herbst, who was believed to be a homicide victim based on evidence of a gunshot wound to the head. The homicide case has been turned over to the Barron County Sheriff's Department.
Special Agent Joe Welsch of the WDJ contacted DDP in January 2019 for assistance in identifying the unknown man. Following sequencing of the DNA in late 2019, advanced bioinformatics ultimately resulted in a usable file which could be uploaded to GEDmatch.com.
Research by DDP volunteer genetic genealogists began on February 25, 2020. In less than two days, team leaders contacted Agent Welsch to offer a likely identity for the John Doe. Agent Welsch was able to secure a DNA sample from a close relative which confirmed the identity of the homicide victim as Gary Albert Herbst, according to the DNA Doe Project.
Investigation into the remains began after Town of Maple Grove resident Andrew Callow’s dog brought home a human skull Dec. 3, 2017. A search by authorities of nearby woods, about 3 miles south of Barron, uncovered the skeletal remains. No weapon was found nearby.
To date DDP has made approximately thirty confirmed identifications, including a 1982 Barron County homicide victim announced in January 2020. Those were found to be the remains Kraig King from White Bear Lake, Minnesota. On September 21, 1982, loggers found a pile of clothes in the woods on private land about 100 yards from the tree line near Hwy. 25, approximately four miles north of Ridgeland. Upon closer inspection, they discovered it was actually badly decomposed human remains. The Barron County Sheriff's Department is still seeking information on what may have led to his being in the area and to his death.