Michigan State Police identify murder victim nearly 50 years after he was found in Saginaw River

Daniel Garza-Gonzales was struck, shot and left in river

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SAGINAW COUNTY, Mich. – Daniel Garza-Gonzales has his name back after being unidentified for nearly 50 years.

Garza-Gonzales was murdered and his body was found floating in the Saginaw River in Zilwaukee Township on March 13, 1973.

The autopsy showed that he had been shot seven times and had blunt force trauma to the back of his head. Officials believe he was knocked down, shot and his body was discarded in the river until it was discovered by a fisherman six weeks after his death.

Officials tried to identify him through fingerprints or other sources, but were unsuccessful. He was eventually buried in a grave marked “John Doe.”

In 2020, Michigan State Police reexamined the case and exhumed his body to take DNA. The remains were sent to the Michigan State University (MSU) Anthropology unit for testing.

In 2021, previously obtained hair samples and new bone samples were sent to Astrea Forensics for forensic genetic genealogy. In the summer of 2022, a familial match was located with help from the DNA Doe Project.

The match helped officials locate a family in Beeville, Texas. Officials took DNA samples from several family members and in December of 2022 the FBI confirmed his identity.

Garza-Gonzales was born on March 15, 1944. He was a Vietnam War veteran who was wounded during the war. When he was 29 years old he left Fort Worth, Texas, to look for work in Flint, Michigan. His parents never heard from him again.

“Knowing his identity, even nearly 50 years later, is a critically important new lead in this case, and investigators hope it will help them determine who was responsible for his death. Garza-Gonzalez’s remains will be reinterred by his family in Texas,” Michigan State Police said.

Anyone with information about the 1973 murder of Garza-Gonzales is asked to contact D/Sgt. Bill Arndt 989-615-6257.

Read: Michigan cold case coverage

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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.