Las Vegas (KSNV) — The enigmatic case of skeletal remains discovered in the Arizona desert over 30 years ago has finally been unraveled, shedding light on the identity of a California gold seeker who vanished in the 1970s.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) recounts that in September 1982, citizens stumbled upon skeletal remains in a remote area outside the Kingman City limits in Arizona. The discovery prompted deputies to investigate, leading to the collection of various personal items at the scene, including a plastic hair comb, a rusty can opener, fingernail clippers, a toothbrush, a tattered short-sleeve shirt, leather belt fragments, remnants of denim pants, and an argyle sock.
The victim, a white male estimated to be 55 years or older and standing between 6’1” to 6’2”, was examined by the Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson. Although the cause of death remained undetermined, forensic experts estimated that the individual, now identified as Virgil R. Renner of Humboldt County, California, passed away between 1979 and 1981.
The remains stayed in the Tucson office until 2020 when investigators from the Special Investigations Unit transported them to the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office. Despite efforts to identify the man over the years, it wasn’t until February 2023 that a breakthrough occurred. Investigators sent a sample for advanced DNA testing, and the results confirmed the remains as belonging to Virgil R. Renner.
Renner, born around 1910, left California in the early 1970s on a quest for gold in Nevada, according to information gleaned from the investigation. How and why he made his way to Arizona, however, remains a mystery.
Little is known about Renner’s life, and authorities discovered that his only known brother and sister had been deceased for some time. Renner never married or had children, and DNA identification was made possible through distant relatives.
The resolution of this decades-long mystery provides a bittersweet conclusion to the story of Virgil R. Renner, the California gold seeker who ventured into the desert, leaving behind only fragments of his past and the echoes of a quest for fortune.