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Dental records to help ID deceased driver

November 04, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Newly discovered dental records could speed the process of identifying a man who was killed last Thursday when a pickup loaded with moonshine crashed and burst into flames.

Capt. Curtis Keller of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department said he learned of the dental records Monday afternoon when he met with the parents of the man authorities believe died in the 3:43 a.m. crash on Interstate 81 near Inwood, W.Va.

The sheriff's department has not released the name of the man who is believed to be from Franklin County in southern Virginia.

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"They said they thought he had gone to a dentist about seven years ago to have a tooth pulled," Keller said Tuesday. He said the parents had come to Martinsburg to deliver clothing from their son that could yield hair and other samples to be used for comparative DNA testing with samples from the body.

According to Keller, the dentist was contacted and informed the medical examiner in Morgantown, W.Va., that there were dental X-rays. The dentist was supposed to mail those X-rays Monday.

Keller said he had been hoping for a positive identification of the man Tuesday, "but obviously the X-rays didn't get there."

According to the sheriff's department report, the accident happened when the northbound Ford Ranger ran off the roadway, traveled several hundred feet through a grassy area and struck a tree. The truck burst into flames and ignited its cargo of approximately 200 gallons of moonshine stored in plastic jugs.

After the fire was put out, the man's body was discovered lying partially out of the driver's side of the pickup.

DNA testing could take weeks to establish the man's identity, but Keller said the X-rays could quickly confirm his identity.

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