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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Weaver

Who is 91-1134? (Updated)

Updated: Feb 13

The 30-plus year old mystery of skeletal remains found in a blanket near Whiteville could be solved using DNA – if a national group can find the right sample.

Othram is a private genetics lab specializing in forensic genealogy to resolve unsolved murders, disappearances, and identification of unidentified decedents or murder victims, according to their website. The sheriff’s office teamed up with Othram and the N.C. Unidentified Persons Project in 2022 to attempt to find the identity of the man known by his case number, #91-1134.

The remains were found outside of Whiteville, beside a dirt road near a pond by hunters in 1991, Othram’s file said. The man is believed to be African American, between the ages of 18 and 39. He stood between 5’7” and 5’9 tall. It was impossible to determine his weight, skin tone, eye color, hair color or other factors because of the condition of the remains. In September 2019, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). An artist's rendition has been created of what the man might have looked like, based on bone structure.

Although investigators pursued leads on the remains, no further information or evidence has been recovered.

Othram has successfully used DNA to solve dozens of unidentified cases. The firm also assists in DNA testing for other law enforcement investigations. The company is building a DNA profile of the unknown man. Report describes discovery

The sheriff’s office report from November 1991 said the body was found by four hunters trying to find the source of a foul odor.

On Nov. 30, 1991, Rick Sellers, Joe Simmons, Jeff Hinson and a juvenile were walking along Jim Jolly Road “near the Ola Simmons residence," about a mile from Mollie Iron Hill Road. The report said the four were near a canal that led to a pond when one of them stepped off the road a few feet in a wooded area – and saw what appeared to be a human skull.

They immediately called 911, and deputies arrived on the scene a short time later. They found other parts of the skeleton on a blanket nearby in the wooded area, and some of the bones were scattered.

The report also said the odor was coming from a dead deer found about 30 feet away from the remains.

The report said blue “uniform” pants, a dark blue pullover, and a checkered blue button-up shirt were found with the remains. The medical examiner’s report notes that the victim had a wallet but no identification or other cards, a blue ballpoint pen, a plastic comb and a wristwatch. The report also noted that the remains were too deteriorated to determine a cause of death, but the victim had a broken right arm that was healing at the time of death. He had not had any dental work done. The report said the bones belonged to a male roughly 19 to 40 years of age who had been dead six months to a year before the discovery.

The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office shared the information about the body with law enforcement agencies throughout the area, and had no responses until later in December.

The Raleigh Police Department reported that Willie James McLaughlin had disappeared June 3, 1990, while heading home from Red springs. The missing persons report did not specify how McLaughlin was traveling.

McLaughlin was described as being 35 years of age, and wearing jeans, a T shirt and tennis shoes at the time of his disappearance. He worked as a janitor.

Raleigh Police did not immediately return a request for more information about McLaughlin’s disappearance.

Anyone with information about the man is asked to contact the Columbus County Sheriff's Office by calling 910-642-6551 . Refer to case number 91-1134. A DNASolves crowdfund has been created to raise funds for the remaining casework costs. To donate toward the $7,500 goal, go to

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