Officials with Holloman Air Force Base say that a 43-year-old cold case involving an AWOL Airman has come to a close after investigators were able to match DNA and dental records to remains found in the Montana wilderness in 1982 to the missing airman.
Airman First Class Rudy Redd Victor, 20, from Shiprock, NM was assigned to Holloman Air Force Base in 1974 when he was awarded leave to visit family in Arizona and Colorado. Witness reports indicate the last location of Victor was near the Wolf Creek Rest area in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. Shortly thereafter, Victor went missing and he was categorized as AWOL by the U.S. Air Force after he failed to return to duty in June 1974.
In 2016, Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) reviewed Victor’s deserter case and loaded a full profile into the National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NamUS). The system is a National Institute of Justice repository for information regarding missing persons and unidentified remains. The initiative aims to seek matches between previously unidentified remains with missing persons reports.
The system’s main flaw according to critics, is that missing persons cases prior to the inception of NamUS in 2007 are not required to be entered into the system. The system relies on cold case detectives to enter information on old cases into the system voluntarily.
When investigators from AFOSI entered Victor’s information into the database they came back with a possible match for remains that were located south of I-15 near the Wolf Creek rest area. Investigators say that a livestock inspector and his team were driving cattle when they found a human skull in September 1982. It wasn’t until 1984 that the skull was turned over to the Lewis and Clark Country Coroner’s Office and sent to the Montana Crime Lab in Missoula, Montana for analysis.
The next month, in July 1984, investigators searched the location where the skull was initially found and located additional unidentified remains. Preliminary findings determined that the cause of death for the unidentified man was likely suicide.
Although crime lab analysis identified the remains as a male between 20 and 28 with Native American descent, they were not able to make a positive identification and close the case.
“Unfortunately, some cases go cold due to a lack of investigative leads, so they remain unresolved for incredible lengths of time,” said John Fine, Investigations Collections and Operations Nexus Cold Case Desk with AFOSI.
June 8, 2017 investigators learned that the unidentified remains located in Montana were a positive dental match for Airman Victor.
According to the Lewis and Clark Sheriff’s Office and Lewis and Clark County Coroner, Airman Victor’s death was most likely due to suicide in June of 1974.
“It’s never easy to lose a loved one, it’s even more difficult when that person’s whereabouts are unknown,” said Sheriff Leo C. Dutton, LCSO. “This is a case where the original investigation was conducted well, with technology available and our Coroner’s Office was able to take advantage of this new technology to identify the unknown remains they’ve been holding for quite some time. Fortunately for all citizens, the U.S. Air Force does the same.”
Instigators concluded that Victor died while still on leave in an active duty status, so his military personnel record has been corrected by the Air Force Personnel Center. He’s now been removed from deserter status.