Human Remains Found Nearly 3 Decades Ago Identified as Man Who Disappeared After Leaving for a Walk

William Benjamin Adams, a 78-year-old New Hampshire man, had been missing since 1991, according to authorities

Remains discovered in a wooded area in 1996 have now been confirmed to belong to a missing New Hampshire man, authorities said.

The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office announced Thursday that a collaboration between the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has led to the identification of William Benjamin Adams.

<p>New Hampshire Department of Justice</p>

New Hampshire Department of Justice

According to authorities, Adams, 78, left his home in Canaan, New Hampshire, in June 1991 to go for a walk but never returned. His family said that Adams had been suffering from dementia, and efforts to find him at the time proved unsuccessful. 

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In November 1996, skeletal remains in a wooded part of Hanover were found by a hunter, per the attorney general’s office. An additional search of the area yielded more remains.

At the time, authorities suspected that they belonged to Adams because of the vicinity of the victim’s last known location.

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The remains were then sent to an out-of-state forensic anthropologist in 1997, the attorney general’s office said. The “examination indicated that the biological characteristics were not inconsistent with those of Benjamin Adams" but that "a positive identification could not be made” at the time.

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However, the case was recently reexamined with the involvement of OCME, the University of New Hampshire F.A.I.R. Lab and the State Police Major Crime and Cold Case Units with the hope that the mystery surrounding Adams’ disappearance could be solved through modern DNA technology.

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Authorities’ investigation included obtaining a DNA sample from the son of Adams. The sample and some of the skeletal remains that were found in 1996 were sent to a private lab for DNA comparison testing.

“The lab, Bode Technology, confirmed the probability of relatedness is 'at least 99.999998%' and the DNA evidence is 'at least 42 million times' more likely to be from “a biological parent as compared to untested and unrelated individuals,” the attorney general’s office said. 

According to authorities, the OCME is in the process of reunifying the remains with Adams’ family.

PEOPLE reached out to the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office and New Hampshire State Police Friday for additional comment.

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