Remains discovered

 Dressed in winter clothing, Barron County Sheriff’s deputies investigate a site in the town of Maple Grove where skeletal remains were discovered in December 2017. More than two and one-half years later, forensic scientists have identified bones as belonging to a Minnesota man, believed to be the victim of a homicide. Photo from News-Shield archives

More than a year after being turned over to forensic scientists in Oklahoma and Texas, skeletal remains found in a town of Maple Grove woodland in December 2017 have been identified as belonging to a 63-year-old New Prague, Minn., man, who is believed to be a murder victim, according to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald.

Herbst is believed to have been the victim of a gunshot wound to the head, based on the combined investigative work of the Sheriff’s Department, the Wisconsin Department of Justice/ Department of Criminal Investigation and the DNA Doe Project.

Found in a small, wooded area next to a town of Maple Grove home, the remains were first examined by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey, Minn. That agency later sent the remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, Forensic Anthropology Unit.

In January 2019, Special Agent Joe Welsch, Wisconsin Department of Justice, contacted the Doe DNA Project.

in January 2019 for assistance in identifying the unknown man. Following sequencing of the DNA in late 2019, advanced bioinformatics ultimately resulted in a usable file, which could be uploaded to

Research by Doe DNA Project volunteer genetic genealogists began on Feb. 25, 2020. In less than two days, team leaders contacted Agent Welsch to offer a likely identity for the John Doe. Agent Welsch was able to secure a DNA sample from a close relative which confirmed the identity of the victim.

Fitzgerald said that the “manner of death is now being investigated as a homicide and is an active case in the Sheriff’s Department; no further comment on the case can be made at this time.”