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Canadian man presumed dead in 1977 fire found alive in Oklahoma

A Canadian man declared missing nearly four decades ago and presumed dead has reportedly been found alive in Oklahoma.

Ronald Stan, 69, was declared dead in 1986, nearly nine years after he was reported missing following a 1977 barn fire in the former township of East Williams. Ontario Provincial Police and the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal investigated the fire, but found no human remains or any trace of Stan, then 32. But a routine audit of the case reopened the investigation into his disappearance in July, ultimately leading authorities to Stan, who had been living in Oklahoma under the name Jeff Walton, the Toronto Star reports.

“I’m still trying to put all the puzzle pieces together myself,” Jeff Walton Jr., 35, told the newspaper. He and the rest of Stan’s relatives in the United States, including Walton’s stepmom and at least three grandchildren, only found out about his Canadian past this month.

Middlesex County Constable Laurie Houghton said the case was cracked due to modern investigative tools not available in 1977. No charges are expected to be filed, authorities said.

“I can’t speak to his motives,” Houghton told the newspaper. “We were able to connect the dots.”

At least one neighbor reportedly recalls the serious blaze. Bert Toonen told the newspaper his brother, Peter, was out with Stan earlier that evening.

“They were my father’s pigs in that barn,” Toonen told the Star. “We were out the next day coming through the wreckage with the police looking for human remains.”

Jeff Walton, Jr., declined to discuss the specifics of his father’s disappearance or any potential motive. He now suffers from vascular dementia and heart disease, his son said. Stan’s wife in the United States, Debra Proctor, filed for divorce upon hearing the development, Walton Jr. said.

“It’s been tough on me, but he’s still my father,” he told the newspaper. “It doesn’t change the man I knew for 35 years. Hopefully one day he can sit down and write a book and remember all the stuff he’s been through in his life. It’d be a damn good book I’ll tell you that, just from what I’ve heard.”