CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A decade-old mystery is solved! A family has closure because of new, cutting-edge technology matching DNA with unidentified remains of people who died.

CMPD has 11 sets of unidentified human remains currently in Mecklenburg County. They’re working to find out who the people were and to bring their remains home to their families.

“They say he just never came back home, and they always wondered what happened,” CMPD Detective Matt Hefner.

Napoleon McNeil was not close to home. He had been separated from his family and somehow made it from living on the streets in Raleigh to Charlotte.

“There’s no telling how he got here or why he was here, but the fact is he died here,” said Leslie Kaufman, a forensic genealogist.

CMPD found McNeil dead in October 2010. His cause of death was undetermined, although detectives say there were no signs of trauma or indications that he was murdered.

For more than a decade, McNeil remained nameless, an unidentified male.

“Leslie called me one night 8-8:30 it’s out of business hours and said, ‘We got a match, it’s him!” said Detective Hefner.

CMPD detectives worked with Kaufman and her team at the North Carolina Unidentified Project to put a face and a name to McNeil’s remains.

“It’s like a giant puzzle,” said Kaufman.

Cases are solved using forensic genetic genealogy, which has only been around for about five years. Researchers first take unidentified remains and extract DNA from them to develop a biological profile.

Then, Kaufman uses that profile to compare it to DNA databases like and

“It’s thrilling to be able to give these people their names, give these people answers,” said Kaufman.

Detective Hefner shared the news with McNeil’s family.

“Napoleon’s parents are older, but they’re still alive, and it was good to be able to tell them, as well as the brother told them what happened. It’s sad to know he’s passed away, but also good to know what happened to him,” said Detective Hefner.

CMPD also hopes to use this technology in the future to help solve murders and sexual assault cases.

CMPD says if you have a loved one who’s been missing for a while or you fear they may be dead, first reach out to your local law enforcement’s Missing Persons Unit, and you can also get a DNA test.

Researchers say it’s free to upload that to DNA databases. Law enforcement officers may be combing through those and be able to make a match, so that you can get the answers you need.