Police Identify Human Remains Found In Arizona Desert From 1980’s

On September 9, 1982, citizens out in the rural desert around Hackberry Road outside of Kingman city limits came across human remains. Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Deputies were called to the scene and recovered the remains, also collecting a plastic hair comb, a rusty can opener, rusty fingernail clippers, a toothbrush, a tattered short-sleeve shirt, leather belt fragments, remnants of denim pants, and an argyle sock.

The human remains were transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson, where an autopsy determined the victim to be a white male, 55+ years old, between 6’1” to 6’2”. A cause of death could not be determined. The year of the victim’s death was estimated to have been between 1979 and 1981. He remained at the Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson until 2020, when investigators from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) transported him to the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The John Doe victim remained unknown and unclaimed as several attempts to identify him proved unsuccessful. In February 2023, investigators sent a sample from the victim to Othram Inc., a cutting-edge genetic laboratory located in Texas. Using advanced DNA testing, Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing, and forensic genetic genealogy, they were able to identify the victim as Virgil R. Renner from Humboldt County, California.

Not much is known at this time about Renner. He is believed to have been born in 1910. He had a brother and a sister, who are long since deceased. He never married and never had children; however DNA identification was made through distant relatives.

Information passed down to investigators revealed that Renner left California in the early 1970’s to search for gold in Nevada. It is unknown how and why he made his way to Arizona.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office is crediting Othram Inc. for their assistance in this investigation. If not for their help, Renner would have remained another John Doe found in the vast desert of Mohave County.