Remains of missing airman found, foul play suspected


Courtesy: Air Force Office of Special Investigations

MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WJMN) — The remains of Sgt. Donald C. Rexroth have been positively identified and investigators say foul play is suspected.

The airman was assigned to K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base 40 years ago. He disappeared and the case went cold.

According to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Special Agent Charles Pipkins of the Cold Case Team opened the case file in 2017 and began retracing Rexroth’s steps before his disappearance.

Rexroth’s mother and siblings were adamant that foul play had been involved in his disappearance, insisting that he wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye.

Hunters found human remains in November of 2017 in the woods near K.I. Sawyer. Michigan State Police recovered the remains and they were logged into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

“I searched the database in 2018 and noticed the unidentified remains of a male matching the age and height of Rexroth,” SA Pipkins recalled. “I began working to match the DNA of the bones to that of Rexroth’s family members to confirm my suspicion that the remains were those of Sgt. Rexroth.”

In July 2019 he was successful. He found the missing Airman, Sgt. Rexroth.

A few weeks later AFOSI deployed an 18-member team to search for and recover any additional remains possible. They were joined by Michigan State Police, the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Forestry Service’s Law Enforcement Division and a team from the Anthropology Department at Northern Michigan University.

The team worked four days to recover additional remains and personal effects from Sgt. Rexroth.

If anyone has any details they think might be relevant to the disappearance of Sgt. Donald C. Rexroth from K.I. Sawyer AFB in May 1979, contact the AFOSI Tipline at 1-877-246-1453, or submit the tip anonymously online at:

“I’m glad we could offer some closure to Sgt. Rexroth’s family,” SA Pipkins said. “Now our hope is that someone comes forward with new information to help us figure out what happened to Rexroth.”

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