EDMONDS — After months of investigation, a man found dead in Yost Park was identified through the same new forensic tool, known as genetic genealogy, that has led to breakthroughs in cold cases here and nationwide. Passersby found the body Nov. 10 at a makeshift camp in the wooded Edmonds park.
Over the past five months, detective Andy Mehl spent time each week running down leads in search of the man’s identity. The name he was looking for, Tim Conrad, 58, never appeared on his radar until a genetic genealogist built a family tree based on the man’s DNA profile.
In the past year, sheriff’s detectives have made breakthroughs in two high-profile criminal cases — the double homicide of a Canadian couple in 1987 and the killing of Jody Loomis in 1972 — but this is the first non-criminal case solved by genetic genealogy in Snohomish County.
Foul play is not suspected in Conrad’s death.
Mehl chased down many tips from the public, as police unveiled clues that could’ve led to his identity.
First, investigators released photos to the media of the man’s clothes, his mountain bike and other details about what had been found with his body.
One neighbor had snapped a picture of the man alive, walking his mountain bike down the street in September. It showed him in profile, wearing the same hiking boots and clothes, and carrying the same three backpacks.
This month a fresh batch of tips came in after a drawing based on the man’s face was released. It’d been based on a reconstruction of his skull.
But none of those tips named Conrad.
Meanwhile, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office had sent a sample of the man’s blood to a private laboratory, so DNA could be extracted. This month his genetic profile was uploaded to public databases, like GEDmatch, where people can trace their family roots.
Some of Conrad’s relatives had uploaded their DNA to the databases.
A genealogist, Deb Stone, began building family trees. Earlier this month, Stone’s sleuthing had helped Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives to make an arrest in the Jody Loomis case.
The medical examiner’s office announced this week that they’d found a match for Conrad. He has family in Western Washington, and had lived in south Snohomish County.
Police still don’t know why he had no wallet or any kind of identification with his name on it.
Edmonds police plan to return Conrad’s belongings to his family.
“It’s good that we can give the family a little bit of closure,” Mehl said.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.