Human skull found on banks of Delaware River in Bucks County in 1986 identified

A woman told detectives she was 11-years-old when her father, Richard Thomas Alt, went missing in Trenton.

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Monday, January 30, 2023
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MORRISVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A human skull that was discovered more than 36 years ago in Bucks County has been positively identified, officials said.

The Bucks County District Attorney's Office announced on Monday that their investigation concluded the skull belonged to Richard Thomas Alt.

According to officials, a fisherman found a human skull in June 1986 on the banks of the Delaware River by the Morrisville Boat Ramp.

The fisherman, who lived in Buckingham Township, took the skull to the police.

In Oct. 2019, Bucks County Detectives took possession of the skull during an investigation of a homicide, but then transferred it to the Bucks County Coroner's Office.

Officials said, later that year, the coroner's office entered the skull into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database.

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In Sept. 2022, Bucks County Detectives once again retrieved the skull and sent it to Othram Inc. a private forensic DNA laboratory based in Texas, for genealogy testing.

Earlier this month, Othram officials contacted Bucks County Detectives about a possible match to the skull on a public genealogy database where users upload their DNA profiles.

"Building a profile from a contributor on that database, Othram officials believed the skull belonged to Richard Thomas Alt," the district attorney's office said.

The Bucks County District Attorney's Office released two images of Richard Thomas Alt.
Bucks County District Attorney's Office

Officials said Alt was 31 years old when he was reported missing to the Trenton Police Department in early 1985. He was last seen on Christmas Eve 1984 by his parents.

At the time of his disappearance, officials said Alt and his girlfriend were suspected homicide victims in New Jersey.

Her body was discovered in April 1985 in the Delaware River in Trenton.

The cases remain unsolved, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.

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On Jan. 4, after being told of the possible connection to Richard Alt, Bucks County Detectives got in contact with the person who used the public genealogy database. She was a 49-year-old woman living in Florida.

The woman told detectives she was 11 years old when her father went missing in Trenton. Her father's name was Richard Thomas Alt.

The woman also told detectives that her father's girlfriend was murdered in 1985 and her father had not been seen since.

The woman agreed to share her DNA results from the genealogy site with Othram, officials said.

Four days later, Othram officials returned with results: a parent-child relationship match to Richard Alt.

"I can't even imagine wondering and worrying about a lost family member for even a day, let alone for 37 years. That wait is now over for Mr. Alt's family," Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said in a statement. "I'm just glad that we could give them some peace of mind with this identification, and the eventual return of his remains to his family."

The Bucks County District Attorney's Office said it considers its investigation closed due to a "lack of evidence of any crime being committed in Bucks County."