2009 homicide victim identified through DNA

Published: May. 6, 2011 at 3:01 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2011 at 12:51 PM EDT
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Todd Lee Christians (Source: HCPD)
Todd Lee Christians (Source: HCPD)
SLED reconstruction of bones found (Source: HCPD)
SLED reconstruction of bones found (Source: HCPD)

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – After nearly two years, a mitochondrial DNA match has led investigators with the Horry County Police Department to the identity of a man whose bones were found in a wooded area.

Sgt. Robert Kegler, spokesman for the Horry County Police Department, said skeletal remains were found behind the Veteran's Affairs and Horry County Parks and Recreation Building in the Conway section of Horry County on September 29, 2009.

After sending the bones to an anthropologist, they were discovered to be that of an adult white male. In the process, the skull was found to contain what appeared to be a bullet wound.

The identity continued to remain unknown through July of 2010, when the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division delivered facial reconstruction photos to the Horry County Police Department.

Even then, detectives were unable to learn the identity of the man, despite receiving several tips.

At the end of April, the Horry County Police Department received a match on mitochondrial DNA extracted from the victim's bones. That match came through the State of Kansas Prison Records.

The man's bones have been positively identified to be that of Todd Lee Christians, 33. Christians stood about 6' and weighed around 185 pounds.

Mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, is found inside the hundreds to thousands of mitochondria in a cell, located outside the nucleus. Mitochondrial DNA is also only inherited through a person's mother, not their father.

Unlike DNA found inside the nucleus, which is used in traditional DNA testing, human cells contain hundreds of mtDNA genomes. DNA inside the nucleus only has two copies.

Because of this, mtDNA testing is great with investigations involving little biological matter.

Due to the fact of Christians' bones being the only evidence available to identify him, extraction of mtDNA was crucial in the investigation.

According to Kegler, Christians was last known to be in the Myrtle Beach area in December of 2007 when his family then lost contact with him. He was not known to have any friends or acquaintances and was said to be a drifter and moved often.

Christians' death continues to be treated as a homicide. Anyone with information about Christians or events leading up to his death is asked to contact the Horry County Police Department at 843-915-5350.

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