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Police in Wisconsin have solved a fifty-year-old mystery surrounding skeletal remains found in a chimney of a music shop. The remains were identified as belonging to Ronnie Joe Kirk, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native, through the DNA Doe Project. Despite this breakthrough, the circumstances of his death and how he ended up in the chimney remain unknown. Kirk went missing in 1970 after losing contact with his family, and his skeletal remains were discovered by a music shop owner in Madison in 1989. For decades, he was only known as “Chimney Doe.”

Madison Detective Lindsey Ludden reached out to the DNA Doe Project in 2018, providing them with a hair sample from Kirk’s skull. The DNA was sent to Astrea Forensics, a DNA sequencing company in California, where it took more than two years to develop a suitable DNA profile for Kirk. He was born in 1942, adopted, married and divorced twice, and had three children. Through genetic genealogy, the project was able to identify him and provide closure to his family members, who had been unaware of each other’s existence due to Kirk’s estrangement from them.

Kirk’s last confirmed contact with his family was in 1970 when he divorced his second wife in Missouri. He has two children from his first marriage and one from his second, and both of his ex-wives remarried. Police have shared limited information about Kirk’s family, who have requested privacy. Investigators plan to determine how Kirk ended up in Wisconsin and are reanalyzing the bones to gather more evidence. Kirk has ties to Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, and Alabama, and no missing persons report had been filed for him.

Authorities initially believed that a severe pelvic fracture found in Kirk’s remains may have been related to his death, which was estimated to have occurred about two years before his remains were discovered. However, a newspaper article from 1957 reported that a 14-year-old boy named Ronnie Joe Kirk was hit by a car while riding a scooter, potentially explaining the mysterious injury. Investigations are ongoing to uncover more information about how Kirk ended up in the chimney and the circumstances surrounding his untimely death.

The DNA Doe Project and Madison Police Department are working together to piece together Kirk’s history and determine what led to his mysterious death and placement in the chimney. Kirk’s family members have been informed of the developments, and they are seeking closure after decades of uncertainty. With the use of genetic genealogy, a DNA profile was established for Kirk, offering hope for answers in this longstanding case. Investigative efforts will continue to shed light on the unexplained fate of Ronnie Joe Kirk.

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