Professor helps police identify body


Aubrie Selsmeyer / Advance-Titan – Jordan Karsten and Hayley Hintz helped police identify the body of a man found in a vacant building in the downtown Oshkosh area.

Aubrie Selsmeyer, Opinion Editor

A UW Oshkosh associate professor does more than just teach students about anthropology. He helps them learn how to be detectives and assist in the identification of people who otherwise might never be named.

Jordan Karsten, chair of the UWO department of anthropology, and Hayley Hintz, Karsten’s research lab assistant, recently helped the Oshkosh Police Department identify a man whose body was discovered on the 100 block of High Avenue. Police suspect no foul play and have no evidence to indicate the death of the man, Glenn Wagner, was suspicious. 

“The department more so wanted an identification,” said Hintz. “And it was really great that we were able to provide a positive confirmation.”

Wagner was suspected to be living in the abandoned building as he was found with personal belongings, according to Karsten.

“We were able to identify him by matching up previous medical records to unique aspects of the anatomical makeup,” Karsten said. “This is also one of the first IDs we were able to make by ourselves.”

Hintz said the most fulfilling part of doing their job is being able to bring closure to friends and family.

“Being able to bring everyone closure and justice is a huge part of what we do,” Hintz said.

“We have the time to get the ball rolling on cases that may not have gone anywhere, like cases from years and years ago that the police set aside,” Karsten said.

Even though the September 2021 discovery of Starkie Swenson’s remains in High Cliff State Park was the most recent breakthrough to make nationwide news, this doesn’t mean their team isn’t constantly working to uncover cases. Swenson, Neenah, was thought to have been murdered in 1983, although his body hadn’t been found.

“A lot of our cases that we work on don’t really make the mainstream news,” Karsten said. 

Hintz and Karsten said there hasn’t been a time since June 2022 that they haven’t been actively working on a case. 

“We are currently working on 19 cases, with some dating back to the ‘60s that went cold,” Karsten said. One of those cases involves Laurie Depies, who was last seen Aug. 19, 1992 outside the Fox River Mall. At the time of her disappearance, Depies was 20 years old and worked at Fox River Mall. The anthropology department gives students the chance to actively participate in cracking cases like this all over the state and offers real experiences outside of the traditional classroom. 

“In a big way, my experience has told me that there are things in a textbook that aren’t really the best way to do it,” Karsten said. “How Hayley and I work is how I’m trying to teach my students.”