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Lab unable to get DNA from Priest Lake body

The mystery of the remains at the bottom of Priest Lake will be left unsolved for now.

The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that it has finished its investigation into the remains found in 322 feet of water off the tip of Eight Mile Island.

“We don’t want to end it on that note,” Sgt. Gary Johnston said. “I still have 12 people presumed lost or missing in Priest Lake.”

The investigation began in 2004 when an underwater recovery company, Ralston & Associates, was tasked with locating a lost Kennewick fireman whose boat was found floating in the area. The remains were discovered using sonar technology and one sample was brought up from the bottom. However, due to the age of the remains, they were determined not to be the fireman, Johnston said.

From 2004 to 2010, the Sheriff’s Office sought out and identified 12 additional people believed to have been lost in Priest Lake. Additional samples from the remains were retrieved and sent to Boise State University and other scientific laboratories, but scientists were unable to extract human DNA from the samples.

Johnston said the outcome of the case is disappointing because so many family members of people presumed drowned in Priest Lake are waiting for closure. Johnston said the Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate any new leads regarding missing persons.

“We’re kind of at a standstill at this point,” he said. “For us and the resources we have at hand, that was the best we could do.”