Detectives working to ID remains found in 1979 on Spencer Island

EVERETT — The man’s been called John Doe for 36 years.

His remains were found near Everett on January 3, 1979.

Now the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is launching a new effort to identify the man — and others in cold cases involving unidentified human remains.

There is no reason to believe there was foul play, detective Jim Scharf said. The remains were found in the mud flats near the west tip of Spencer Island, between Everett and Marysville.

Also found were a red-and-white plaid shirt, Farah-brand khaki pants, a belt sized 33-34, a pair of laced dress shoes size 8 or 8?½ with “O’Sullivan’s” stamped on bottom of the heel, and a black leather wallet.

There have been great advances in genetic and forensic sciences since he was buried in 1979.

Earlier this year, a Snohomish County judge approved a request to exhume the remains for forensic analysis. That was done in July.

A new bulletin with the man’s description went out to law enforcement last week in hopes of generating tips, Scharf said. Another step will be adding the man’s genetic profile to a national database.

A forensic anthropologist determined the man was between 40 and 70 years old, Scharf said. He was between 5-foot-1 and 5-foot-7 and likely was part white and part American Indian.

The man had a healed fracture that would have shortened his left leg, so he would have had a noticeable gait. He also had a joint disorder that may have caused clicking sounds when he moved his jaw. He was missing two teeth on the upper left side and had signs of dental work.

Police hope sharing the new details about the man’s appearance may connect the dots for someone who knew him.

Scharf and others at the sheriff’s office have been going through files looking for other cases of unidentified remains going back more than 50 years. The process likely will take several months, and volunteers are part of that effort.

He encourages the families of missing people to make sure the names still are listed with law enforcement. They also should see if they can submit DNA to the national database for potential matches. The best candidates for matches are the siblings, parents and children of the person who is missing, he said.

The medical examiner’s offices in King and Snohomish Counties and the staff at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Everett all contributed to the progress so far in the 1979 John Doe case, Scharf said.

“He has some unusual characteristics that should help in finding someone who knew him,” Scharf said. “We hope the public can provide a name for him so we can verify it and give his family some answers after all of these years.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

Tips sought

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Jim Scharf at 425-388-3841, Anonymous tips can be left at 425-388-3845.

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