GUNTERSVILLE — The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office announced on Wednesday a major break in a murder case that had gone cold for over 26 years.

On April 15, 1997, the body of a white male was discovered near a shallow creek bed in Union Grove, Marshall County. According to the sheriff’s office, the body had its head, hands and feet intentionally removed, making a positive identification nearly impossible beyond race and gender.

Thanks to advanced DNA testing and genealogical research, the body has been identified as Jefferey Douglas Kimzy, 20, of Santa Barbara, California.

After the body was found, the case was entered into the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, which generated no credible leads, the sheriff’s office said.

In a press conference Wednesday, Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims said investigators contacted Parabon NanoLabs in November 2019. Through a process called DNA Phenotyping, Parabon generated possible physical characteristics of what the victim might look like.

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In 2022, Parabon located a familial match based on the body's DNA to a man in Santa Barbara, California and found a close relative in Madison, Tennessee. Investigators traveled to Tennessee to interview the relative and learned Kimzy's biological parents were still alive in California.

Working with law enforcement in Santa Barbara, the sheriff's office soon obtained DNA samples of the parents to test against the body and, in September 2022, confirmed the victim's identity. The sheriff's office also learned of an incident report filed in May 1997 listing Kimzy as the possible offender.

Sims said investigators are actively pursuing new leads and persons of interest in the case, and further collaboration with Parabon on testing DNA evidence found at the scene could lead to possible suspects in the murder. He asked anyone with information about Kimzy to come forward.

"There have many investigators who have worked on this case over the course of many years and some of them are with us today. I know they would like to see this case solved, but by having a positive identification will help us get closer to solving this case," Sims said during the conference. "I want to thank all the investigators, the people at Parabon who worked tirelessly on this case, the Alabama Department of Forensic Science, Marshall County Coroner's Office, Marshall County District Attorney's Office and everyone involved."

Sims declined to go into further detail as to how or why Kimzy found his way into Alabama from California to be murdered without anyone filing a missing persons report.

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