Published On: Thu, Oct 11th, 2018

Wisconsin: Body found in lake identified as Thomas Engel, who went missing in 1996

A body found in a Wisconsin lake last year has officially been identified as Thomas Engel, a man who was reported as missing in 1996.

Engel, 31 at the time of the report, was found dead in a Waukesha County lake, Okauchee Lake, which is more than 90 feet deep.

“Preservation of the remains was due to the conditions of the lake, which includes depth of water, cold temperature and lack of oxygen. This is consistent with other deep water recovery of remains,” according to a news release published on FOX 6 online.

Town of Oconomowoc police say DNA from a family member was used to identify Engel.

The man was reported missing after a boating incident on June 17, 1996.

Police Chief James Wallis says he was reminded of the 1996 case, working as a patrolman back then. Wallis contacted family members to locate Engel’s mother, who then provided a DNA sample.

“It’s nice we’re able to see this all the way through to a recovery and returning the remains,” Wallis said. “I can’t think of anybody else that went into the lake, that we’re aware of, that hadn’t been recovered. Thomas was the only one that I’m aware of.”

It took nearly 11 months for results from the DNA testing.

The samples were obtained Nov. 4, 2017 and were turned in to the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office on Nov. 8. Testing was conducted at the University of North Texas Center of Identification at no cost to the police department.

“You still decompose but at a slower rate,” Wallis said. “We’ll leave it at that.”
Wallis said he feels for the family.

“He wasn’t recovered immediately and you just don’t know,” Wallis said. “Here’s a family that’s going through the funeral and grieving process twice now on that same person. In one sense you brought him home, but in the other sense you’re going through another sense of emotions reliving it. It’s tough for the family.”

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at theglobaldispatch@gmail ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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