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DNA provides a break in this decades-old cold case

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Advances in DNA technology have given police in Newfoundland and Labrador the break they needed to move forward on a 23-year-old cold case.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) announced Wednesday it had learned the name of Temistocle Casas, whose skull was found alone on a back road in the town of Conception Bay South, N.L., in 2001.

Police say they are actively investigating the case and believe it to be a homicide.

"We say every piece of information is vital and can be valuable, and in this case, that's more true than ever," said Const. James Cadigan, a spokesperson with the RNC.

"Because so much time has passed since this gentleman's death, every small piece or detail can lead us in a direction."

An undated photo of Temistocle Casas. (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)

Multiple public pleas for information, along with a cash reward, proved ultimately fruitless for the police who worked to identify the remains for two decades. It wasn't until advances in DNA testing and matching became popular that a breakthrough was made.

The police force began working with Othram, an American forensic company, in 2021. That group was able to extract DNA samples and match them with relatives whose information was contained in the GEDmatch database.

"Similar to what we would think of as Ancestry.com, or some of these larger databases where people are looking to associate themselves with family lines and ties and ancestry," Cadigan said.

Police ultimately tracked down a first cousin of Casas' who connected investigators with immediate family members.

According to police, Casas arrived in the province of Quebec from Cuba in 1992, looking to enter the country. He got a tourist visa.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. James Cadigan speaks to reporters in St. John's, N.L., on May 29, 2024. (CTV News)

Little is known about the man beyond that, including why he died, who killed him, or why he was in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to police.

"Those are points we're going to be looking at," Cadigan said. "In the last years and months of his life, what occurred? What's the story with Temy Casas?"

This case marks one of the longest for the RNC, and it's also the longest stretch between finding a victim and confirming their identity.

Police said their first attempt at matching with relatives through DNA sampling got them in touch with a fourth cousin, who couldn't provide much information.

However, police in Newfoundland and Labrador say they have identified a woman who had been in touch with Casas.

They believe a travel agent who worked in Cuba by the name of Joanne Bergeron would have had contact with him. On Wednesday, they called her a "known associate."

Police hope to speak with the woman, who they believe is now 68 years old.

Anyone else with information about Casas is also asked to contact the RNC.

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