Body found in Alabama 10 years ago finally ID’d by DNA, police say

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

Human remains found almost a decade ago at an abandoned house near Talladega Superspeedway during a race weekend have been identified as those of a Georgia woman, officials said Thursday.

DNA testing confirmed that the body found by a deputy on May 4, 2012, was that of Jean Turner Ponders of Roswell, Georgia, according to a statement from Othram Inc., a Texas-based laboratory that conducts genetic sequencing and was brought in to the case by police in Lincoln.

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences determined that Ponders, who was 67, likely had lung cancer, a statement said.

An investigation didn’t show whether Ponders and her death were connected to the racing events that attracted thousands of people to the area around the time her remains were found.

A deputy spotted an open door at a vacant home a few miles from the track and stopped to investigate, locating the remains behind the house. The body didn’t have any identification, and the remains were too decomposed to collect fingerprints, Othram said.

Unable initially to determine the identity of the body, authorities entered information into a national database of missing persons but didn’t find any matches, news outlets reported. WIAT-TV reported that after not hearing from her sister for three years, Ponder’s sister reported her missing in 2015, according to police in Roswell, Georgia.

Working at the request of police in the Talladega County town of Lincoln, Othram said it used advanced testing to match DNA from the body with relatives of Ponder. Lincoln police said the case had gone cold after the body didn’t match those of any missing persons in the area.