A skull found in the wilderness of Alaska more than 25 years ago belonged to a New York man who went missing in the 1970s, according to authorities.
The skull was recovered in July 1997 along the same river, about eight miles from the Alaska-Canada border, the Associated Press and Times reported.
In April 2022, Alaska State Troopers said investigators were able to extract DNA from the skull, but faced a months-long process to identify the remains, per the Times.
However, a recent 23andMe test taken by Gary’s brother Stephen Sotherden helped authorities officially identify the remains, the newspaper reported.
“We’ve been working on it for 45 years, and it’s nice that things came to a conclusion,” Stephen, 76, told the Times.
A spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Tim DeSpain, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers, said Gary appears to have been attacked by a bear “based on the shape, size and locations of tooth penetrations to the skull,” according to the AP.
DeSpain said it is unclear if the bear’s attack led to Gary’s death, per the news agency.
Gary was adventuring outdoors with friends when he went missing in 1976, the Times reported. At one point, the group opted to travel on either side of the Porcupine River, but they later learned that Gary had disappeared.
The skull found in 1997 was located in the same area as Sotherden’s last known whereabouts, DeSpain said, per the AP. Officials that searched the area did not uncover any other remains.
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Gary’s family has presumed he was dead after a mountain guide they hired discovered the missing man’s campsite, and personal belongings such as his drivers license and a pair of broken glasses, according to Syracuse.com and the Times.
The hunter’s loved ones also honored his life with a headstone at Pine Plains Cemetery in Clay that says, “Lost in Alaska,” according to the outlets.
In December, eight months after the initial breakthrough, state troopers called Stephen and informed him that they had positively identified his brother’s remains, according to Syracuse.com.
Stephen said he previously thought his brother may have fallen through ice, but said the medical examiner’s report “was much more brutal than I had hoped,” per the report.
“It’s been hard all the way along, but it’s nice to at least know what happened,” he told the Times.