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​Providing Closure: Partnerships Help Medical Examiner Identify Loved Ones


As part of its role to provide morgue and forensic pathology services to Mecklenburg County and surrounding counties, the Medical Examiner's Office works diligently on cases of unidentified remains. That includes partnering with local, state and federal agencies and organizations, such as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and the N.C. Unidentified Project.

Those collaborations paid off on July 27 when CMPD announced the identification of remains found in 2009 at Wadsworth Place in Charlotte. Through DNA analysis, they were identified as Napoleon McNeil, a Raleigh-area man who had no known contacts or history in Mecklenburg County.

WATCH the announcement by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.


Mr. McNeil was identified by the N.C. Unidentified Project, established in 2020 by Dr. Ann Ross, forensic anthropologist at N.C. State University, and Leslie Kaufman, a forensic genealogist and owner of First Genes LLC. They founded the Project with a grant to help fund the DNA analysis and identification of North Carolina's nearly 130 unidentified persons.

The case of Mr. McNeil is one of several submitted by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office. Its partnership with the N.C. Unidentified Project developed after the County's recent successes in identifying remains. For several years, the County's forensic pathologist Dr. Jonathan Privette and forensic autopsy technician Elizabeth Fisher have reviewed local cases. Their work resulted in the identification of two men—Matthew Schulty in 2018 and Robert Quade in 2019. Those identifications were made using DNA analysis via the University of North Texas and NamUs, and with the assistance of dentist Dr. Gina Davis.

"It's important that families receive some measure of closure on a missing loved one, which is why we work hard to identify these individuals," said Dr. Jonathan Privette, Mecklenburg County forensic pathologist. "Putting names and faces to remains discovered in our communities is a critical role and we're grateful to Dr. Ross, the Unidentified Project, and CMPD for their partnership in helping deliver that closure for families in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and beyond."

There are currently 11 unidentified cases pending within Charlotte-Mecklenburg, with others from surrounding counties that the Medical Examiner's Office services. The County is hopeful that the continued collaborations will yield further success in the identification of remains.