Officials use DNA testing to identify Winston-Salem man reported missing over 30 years ago

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Multiple agencies across several states worked to identify a Winston-Salem man who was reported missing in 1986, according to a Winston-Salem Police Department news release.

On July 24, 1986, Dwight Michael Gordon’s family reported him as a missing person to the WSPD.

Gordon was 37 at the time he was reported missing. The initial investigation revealed that he was last seen by family in June 1984.

In Alabama, on October 21, 1984, the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department discovered an unidentified white male deceased on County Road 459.

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences determined the cause of death was due to multiple blunt force injuries to the head and the manner of death was ruled a homicide. Despite multiple efforts by authorities in Alabama, the identity of the victim remained unknown.

In 1986, the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation led to an arrest of James Cleckler, who was 32 at the time.

Cleckler plead guilty to manslaughter in 1987 and was sentenced to life in prison. He has been released for serving his time as structured for Alabama sentencing guidelines at the time.

In 2016, the unidentified male was exhumed for DNA testing.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center was able to enter extracted DNA into the national database known as the Combined DNA Index System or “CODIS.”

In February, 2019, authorities of the WSPD’s Criminal Investigations Division became involved after being contacted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI).

Authorities with TBI believed they had an unidentified male subject who was believed to be Gordon.

This investigation revealed a possible living sister in Myrtle Beach. Officials with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System utilized assistance of the Myrtle Beach Police Department to obtain a DNA sample from a living sister of Gordon.

The results of this DNA comparison revealed that the unidentified male in Tennessee was not Gordon, however the link to the unidentified male in the Chilton County Alabama homicide case was discovered.

In September, 2019, authorities of the Winston-Salem Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division began working with Chilton County Sheriff, John Shearon and officials of “NamUs.”

Authorities with the WSPD’s Criminal Investigations Division were able to identify a living brother of Gordon and were able to collect a DNA sample.

On June 23, 2020, authorities learned from officials at NamUs that the DNA samples obtained from the sister and brother of Gordon, in fact, confirmed his identity.

This investigation spans 36 years.

Authorities with the WSPD ask those with loved ones that are still missing to not lose hope.

Gordon’s family has been notified.

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