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The DNA analysis conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Guam has revealed that the set of bones found in the mangroves of Ngesaol, Koror last year belonged to a woman who was reported missing in 2016, giving closure to the family of the victim in this over two-year-old case.

The DNA report from the FBI dated April 30, 2019 that was received by Palau’s Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on June 25 showed ‘strong evidence’ that the bones belonged to a Palauan woman identified as Jaycee Iyar Soto.

The report stated that DNA samples from Soto’s parents and two children were submitted to the FBI for comparison and resulted into the identification of Soto. With this latest development, the Narcotics Enforcement Agency (NEA), who is handling the case, now declares Soto as ‘deceased and no longer considered missing.’

Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Chief of Staff Earnest Ongidobel, in an interview, said that further analysis on Soto’s remains is being conducted by the FBI to gather more evidence, such as if there are fractures on the bones, that would indicate murder.

Ongidobel said that the bones will soon be repatriated to Palau for proper burial and arrangements with the bereaved family. The bones were forwarded to the United States in late September 2018 for the FBI to examine.

“I know it has been a long time [since Soto was reported missing] and the family [had] been waiting for closure on this case and we finally have it now,” Ongidobel said, explaining further that the results on the DNA analysis of the bones took a long time to get since Palau does not have the forensic laboratory.

“A lot of people out there are saying that we took a long time to do this but it is not really within our means [to conduct sophisticated laboratory test] so [we] rely on FBI in Guam and the states [to] work [with] us,” Ongidobel said.

Ongidobel explained that having a forensic laboratory and equipment is expensive and Palau also does not have the capacity to man such laboratory but the MOJ is collaborating with the FBI to provide assistance on investigations. Aside from the FBI, Palau is also seeking the help of the Taiwan government to provide assistance in cases similar to this to speed up evidence analysis.

Narcotics Enforcement Agency Director Ismael Aguon also told Island Times that Soto’s case is now referred to the prosecutors for review and further action.

In our previous report, a set of bones was found by a fisherman in the sea water of Ngesaol on September 16, 2018. Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold Oilouch previously told the media that 65% of the bones, including a skull, was retrieved by the authorities from the site following the report. There were also two types of ropes and a fabric believed to be a piece of clothing that were found along with the bones.

Soto was previously reported missing after sudden disappearance on September 17, 2016. Palauan authorities conducted a long search operation on land and sea that was concluded in December 2016 after no significant progress was made. Palau’s government even offered a bounty of $5,000 to an individual who can help locate Soto but to no avail.

Island Times also previously reported that Soto’s husband, Inis Remoket, was arrested and charged for alleged murder of his wife but this was later dismissed without prejudiced by the court due to the “case not being able to withstand the test of reasonable doubt.”  (By Rhealyn C. Pojas)