A forensic artist reconstructed the face of a man found dead Nov. 10, in Yost Park in Edmonds. (Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office)

A forensic artist reconstructed the face of a man found dead Nov. 10, in Yost Park in Edmonds. (Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office)

New drawing, DNA sleuthing give hope in Edmonds cold case

A likeness based on the man’s skull aims to generate tips. DNA has led to promising leads.

EDMONDS — Now he has a face.

For months we’ve known the clothes the man wore when he was found dead in Yost Park.

One tip gave police a picture of him from the side, alive, in the same clothes, pushing his bike in the same neighborhood where he died. The photo was taken Sept. 30, suggesting he’d been in Edmonds at least since then. It appeared he’d been dead two to four weeks when passersby discovered him Nov. 10. He’d taken his own life.

Investigators still haven’t found his name.

A new drawing based on his skull could help to identify him, if it can jog someone’s memory.

Forensic artist Natalie Murry approximated the man’s face based on his skull — the shape of his forehead, jaw, eye sockets, nasal passages and other details. He had wide sunken eyes like Peter Lorre and a scruffy beard and silver hair.

Authorities also know he stood about 5-foot-9, wore size 9½ hiking boots and toted around three backpacks. He did not carry a driver’s license or a pill bottle with a name on it.

Cold case investigators are working other angles, too, to find his identity based on his genetic profile. Last week a private lab extracted DNA from the man’s blood. It was uploaded Monday to the public ancestry site GEDmatch, in search of relatives. Instantly, there were matches with distant cousins who had sent in their DNA profiles to the database, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

It could be enough for a genealogist to build a family tree for the man, and ultimately to track down his name. If so, it would be the first time genetic genealogy has been used to solve a case of unidentified remains in Snohomish County.

The new forensic technique has earned national headlines for breakthroughs in homicide cases in the past year, including a high-profile double slaying in Snohomish County from 1987. In that case, DNA evidence helped build a family tree that pointed directly to a suspect, leading to an arrest, where three decades of leads had fallen short.

The Yost Park John Doe left behind few clues. Toothbrushes, honey, peanut butter and cereal were among his belongings.

He had a black-and-gray scarf and a few pairs of reading glasses. His clothes — a black Boeing jacket; a blue vest; a purple-and-gold University of Washington hoodie; a light blue American Apparel T-shirt — were all different sizes. The man’s Scott Boulder mountain bike had mismatched wheels, a seat protected by a plastic bag and a gray cargo box fastened with bungee cords. He wore ear bud headphones hooked up to an Optimus portable stereo that needed to be taped or held shut.

Tips can be directed to Edmonds police detective Andy Mehl at 425-771-0285.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Need help?

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, there’s help out there. Counselors are available anytime at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Care Crisis Chat serves Western Washington at 800-584-3578, or imhurting.org.

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