Body found in Kentucky lake by fishermen in 1999 identified as fugitive wanted by FBI


Nearly a quarter century after fishermen discovered a body chained to the bottom of a lake in western Kentucky, authorities say advanced forensic testing helped identify the remains as a fugitive wanted by the FBI in the late 1990s. 

The remains were identified as Roger Dale Parham, who disappeared in March 1999 while awaiting trial for various criminal charges in Arkansas, where he lived, the Kentucky State Police said in a news release. It was assumed when he went missing that Parham had fled the area to avoid prosecution, so the FBI later brought additional charges against him and opened a probe into his whereabouts. 

“Until now, Parham’s disappearance remained a mystery,” police said Monday.  

Parham was arrested the November before his disappearance for rape involving a minor, according to the FBI. He was released on bond with conditions, but the bond was revoked after he failed to appear in court, the bureau said.

Two fishermen originally found Parham’s body in Lake Barkley, which runs perpendicular over the western border of Kentucky and Tennessee, on May 6, 1999, police said. The body was found wrapped in heavy tire chains and anchored to the bottom of the lake with a hydraulic jack. 

An image of Roger Dale Parham provided by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the Kentucky State Police.

Kentucky State Police via NAMUS

It was determined that the remains belonged to a White man who stood between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet 1 inch tall, according to a description on the cold case database DNASolves. The body was found wearing a white t-shirt with a “No Fear Sports Bar” logo on the front and a “No Fear Gear” logo on the back, a Dallas Cowboys nylon jacket and a green Reebok jacket. He was wearing jeans, a black leather belt and tennis shoes.

At the time his body was discovered, investigators could not identify the remains using the technology available, even after a forensic composite was developed and released to the public showing how the then-unknown man may have looked during his life. In 2013, the body was exhumed in hopes that more modern methods, like advanced DNA testing, dental exams and forensic pathology, would help determine who he was. They did not. 

A forensic composite was developed and released to the public depicting how the man now identified as Roger Parham may have looked during his life. The composite did not help authorities identify him.

Parham’s body was finally identified in early 2023, when Kentucky State Police partnered with Othram Inc., a private forensic laboratory that specializes in forensic genealogy. The lab performed advanced genealogy DNA tests and coordinated with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a database that allowed investigators to locate a relative whose DNA matched samples taken from the body, and identify Parham. 

The cause of Parham’s death is still undetermined, but Kentucky State Police said his case is being investigated as a homicide “due to the suspicious circumstances in which the remains were located.” 

Authorities have asked anyone with information related to Parham’s death to report tips to the Kentucky State Police Post 1 in Mayfield by calling 270-856-3721. People can also report tips online using the Kentucky State Police website.

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