Diann Wells said goodbye to her father and mother in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Now, she's finally able to say goodbye to her brother as well—a brother who went missing 41 years ago. On June 23, a Texas lab confirmed Mark Duane Woodard was dead after comparing the DNA of her parents to that taken from bones found in Marion County in 1977. The Ledger reports that a 19-year-old Woodard vanished on April 14, 1975; he had intended to head from their home in Florida to Texas with friends that day, says Wells. The Charley Project, which profiles missing persons cases, says he had as much as $3,000 in cash on him at the time; WFTS reports by way of investigators that the group intended to buy marijuana in Texas.
Though Wells always suspected her brother had been murdered, she tells the paper that when the Polk County Sheriff's Office asked to meet with her to discuss an investigation, it never dawned on the 62-year-old they were referring to her brother. Progress on the case began in 2009, when a bone was sent to the University of North Texas so that DNA could be recovered and added to the Missing Persons Database. The sheriff's office in Polk County, which is about two hours south of Marion County, surfaced Woodard's case in a review last year of missing persons cases. Wells tells WFTS her parents gave their DNA "seven or eight years ago" after some remains were found in the area; so as part of its review PSCO sent that DNA to Texas. Marion County has now shifted the missing persons case to a death investigation, and is working in concert with Polk County. "This opens up an investigation that will make a very cold case very active," a Marion County investigator says. (This woman became a PI to solve her friend's murder.)