Missing Georgia father who vanished days before Christmas in 1978 identified through DNA

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wa. — A Georgia man has been identified as the victim of a 41-year-old cold case out of Washington through new DNA technology.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said that skeletal remains found in 1980 are those of 28-year-old Ronald David Chambers, who vanished from a motel in SeaTac in 1978.

Chambers, who was from Rome, Georgia, was staying at an airport motel in the Seattle area with his wife and child.

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Police said that he was last seen by his wife on Dec. 17, 1978 as he was leaving their motel in a rental car. Police did not say if the family was in the area visiting family over the holidays.

A suspect, Robert Helberg, returned to the motel later that day driving Chambers’ rental car. Foul play was suspected at the time, but without Chambers’ body, police couldn’t prove it.

In August of 1980, a land owner found skeletal remains on his property. The skull showed evidence of a gunshot wound.


The remains were buried in 1981. The case was reexamined in 2008, and entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database.

In 2011, cold case detectives obtained a warrant to have the body exhumed and extract DNA, but a lab was unable to obtain a usable DNA sample.

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In 2020, the sheriff’s office was able to get funding to have the DNA extracted by a private lab, Othram.

The lab was able to extract a usable portion of DNA, which was matched to Chambers in 2021.

The remains were officially identified as Chambers in February of this year.

The suspect, who is also a person of interest in additional murder cases, died in prison in 1993.

Anyone with information about Robert Helberg’s activities from 1978-1985, is asked to contact the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 425-388-3845.

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