The skeletal remains of a likely homicide victim found 41 years ago along a highway tucked in the southwestern corner of Minnesota have been identified using genealogy research and DNA analysis, law enforcement officials said.

Louis Anthony Gattaino had been missing since October 1971, when he was 25 years old and living roughly 185 miles due south in Omaha. On March 13, 1981, a highway worker found remains now identified as Gattaino's near a culvert along Interstate 90 in Beaver Creek Township.

BCA forensic scientists collected DNA from the remains but found no match in convicted offender or missing persons databases. Then in August of this year, researchers from the privately operated DNA Doe Project worked with a public genealogy database and identified a likely genetic connection to Gattaino's family, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Rock County Sheriff's Office said in a joint statement.

BCA agents and Rock County investigators traveled to Omaha and collected DNA samples from several of Gattaino's family members.

"BCA forensic scientists obtained DNA results that support the familial relationship last week, and Rock County investigators notified Gattaino's family members of the results," Tuesday's joint statement read.

"While it's not news anyone wants, Louis Gattaino's family at long last has some answers," Sheriff Evan Verbrugge said in the statement. "And while there is still much to be learned about Mr. Gattaino's death, knowing his identity — even decades after he died — is a critically important new clue in this case."

BCA spokeswoman Jill Oliveira told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that the medical examiner in 1981 "determined that it was [a] probable homicide."

Verbrugge elaborated that it appears that Gattaino had "a wound to the head area, [and] it appears possibly to be a gunshot wound." The sheriff said there's been no discovery of a gun near where the remains were located.

The DNA Doe Project helps authorities solve especially challenging "Jane and John Doe" mysteries around the country.

The California-based volunteer organization's case file on Gattaino's remains, labeled "2269UMMN - Unidentified Male," offers many details about that highway worker's discovery. Among them: The remains were found as a fully clothed "near complete or complete skeleton" of a man who likely died within the year leading up to their discovery.

"While clearing out a concrete culvert," the file elaborates in connection with the possible timing of the death, "a Department of Transportation worker found the victim's skeletal remains. The ditch and culvert were last cleaned on October 21, 1980, and no remains were noted at that time."

BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said in a statement accompanying the announcement of Gattaino's identification that "forensic investigative genetic genealogy continues to unlock mysteries and provide families with answers about their loved ones. Although DNA testing wasn't possible when Louis Gattaino died, we are grateful that it brings his family some resolution today."

The sheriff said he would find out whether any Gattaino family members were interested in speaking with the Star Tribune about the solving of this long-running mystery.

Investigators are urging that anyone who recognizes or had contact with Gattaino between 1971 and 1981 or has information about his death to contact the Sheriff's Office tip line at 507-283-5000.

"We're not expecting to get many tips, if any," Verbrugge said, "because it happened so long ago and he's not from our area. But it's good to know we have a name, at least."