Investigators used DNA evidence to identify the remains of a Winston-Salem man who was reported missing nearly 34 years ago, authorities said Monday.
On July 24, 1986, Dwight Michael Gordon’s family reported him missing to the Winston-Salem Police Department, police said in a statement. Gordon was 37 and had been living on Washington Avenue.
Investigators determined that Gordon was last seen by his family about two years before the disappearance was reported, police said.
On Oct. 21, 1984, the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama found the body of an unidentified white man on County Road 459, police said.
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences determined that the man’s cause of death was due to multiple blunt force injuries to his head, and the man’s death was ruled a homicide.
Despite efforts by authorities in Alabama, the victim’s identity remained unknown.
In 1986, investigators with the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office arrested James Cleckler, who was 32 at the time. Cleckler pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Gordon’s death in 1987 and was sentenced to life in prison.
However, Clecker has been released for serving his time under structured for Alabama sentencing guidelines at the time, Winston-Salem police said.
In 2016, the unidentified male victim found in Alabama was exhumed for DNA testing. The University of North Texas Health Science Center in Ft. Worth, Texas, entered his DNA into the national database, known as the Combined DNA Index System.
In February 2019, Winston-Salem police investigators were contacted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, who believed the remains of a different unidentified man might be Gordon.
Officials with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, with the help of the Myrtle Beach Police, obtained a DNA sample from Gordon’s sister, who lived in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The results of that DNA comparison revealed that the unidentified male victim in Tennessee was not Gordon. However, the link to the unidentified male in the Chilton County Alabama homicide case then came to light.
In September, 2019, Winston-Salem police detectives began working with Chilton County Sheriff John Shearon and federal investigators.
Local detectives then identified a living brother of Gordon and collected a DNA sample from him.
On June 23, authorities learned from federal investigators that the DNA samples obtained from Gordon’s sister and brother confirmed Gordon’s identity.
This investigation spanned three decades. Winston Salem police ask city residents with loved ones who are still missing to not lose hope.
Anyone with information regarding this case can call Winston-Salem police at 336-773-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800, Crime Stoppers of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County is also on Facebook.