By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Forensic experts are close to finding out if a skeleton found with gunshot damage to the skull belongs to an Oregon marshal whose 1926 disappearance remains one of the country's oldest unsolved missing persons cases, officials said on Wednesday.
Oregon officials are seeking DNA samples from potential relatives of Marvin Clark, a former Linnton town marshal who disappeared from Tigard, Oregon, when he went to see his physician in Portland and never returned.
Oregon forensic anthropologist Nici Vance said some DNA test results were already pending on the skeleton, found in 1986 in Linnton - now a neighborhood in Portland - with wire-rimmed eyeglasses similar to those worn by the marshal.
If the remains turn out to be Clark's, it will close the second oldest missing persons case in the country, according to Todd Matthews, spokesman for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).
"It would be wonderful to be able to resolve a very long mystery and hopefully return the remains to the family," Vance said, adding that officials were looking at other cold cases in addition to Clark's as they try to identify the remains.
Clark was between 60 and 70 years old and was reportedly depressed about his health issues at the time of his disappearance, according to NamUs. A local newspaper report put his age at 75.
Vance said she was able to get a full DNA profile of the skeleton after sending a sample to the University of North Texas Health Science Center in 2011 after going through cold cases in Oregon.
The oldest U.S. missing persons case, according to NamUs, dates back to 1902. Elijah Cravens, a farmer believed to be in his 30s, who lived outside of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, left on horseback to attend a meeting and was never seen again.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and G Crosse)