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Headless body found in Alabama 26 years ago identified as Santa Barbara man

KTLA-TV Los Angeles 5/25/2023 Travis Schlepp

A mutilated body found in rural Alabama more than 26 years ago has finally been identified as a Southern California man who was missing for years.

The body was found on April 15, 1997, along a creek in Union Grove, Alabama, a rural town in Marshall County with fewer than 100 people.

Investigators identified the remains as that of a white man, but the body had been brutally torn apart, with his head, hands and feet removed, likely in an attempt to make his identification impossible.

The man’s death was immediately ruled a homicide, but because of the body’s condition, detectives were never able to positively identify him — until now.

Thanks to the advancement of DNA technology and years of detective work, the man has been identified as Jeffrey Douglas Kimzy, a Santa Barbara man who disappeared when he was 20 years old.

The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office said the case never went cold, and detectives pursued dozens of leads, but were never able to get to the bottom of who the victim was.

But in 2019, the Sheriff’s Office contacted Parabon NanoLabs, a genealogical research and DNA technology company, to aid in the investigation. The company utilized a process called DNA phenotyping, which allowed for some of the victim’s physical characteristics to be determined.

Yearbook photos of Jeffrey Kimzy compared to the phenotyping image provided by Parabon NanoLabs. (Marshall County Sheriff’s Office) © Provided by KTLA-TV Los Angeles Yearbook photos of Jeffrey Kimzy compared to the phenotyping image provided by Parabon NanoLabs. (Marshall County Sheriff’s Office)

Using that new information, investigators were able to positively identify the body as Kimzy, bringing an end to a two-decades long missing person case.

But the story continues. Not only were authorities able to identify the victim, they’ve also identified multiple people of interest in the case.

Detectives are now pursuing those new leads and are asking anyone with information related to the timeframe around Kimzy’s disappearance and murder to come forward.

The Sheriff’s Office said many of the original detectives assigned to this case are still with the agency, and many of them are eager to see someone finally put behind bars for the crime.

Finally solving half of the mystery about the brutal killing, is the first critical step in finally bringing justice to Kimzy and his loved ones, the Sheriff’s Office said.

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