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KSBY Investigates: Nine "John Does" unidentified on the Central - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

KSBY Investigates: Nine "John Does" unidentified on the Central Coast

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This clay model of a man's head was based on the unidentified remains found near the Cambria Cemetery in 1987. (San Luis Obispo Co. Sheriff's Office) This clay model of a man's head was based on the unidentified remains found near the Cambria Cemetery in 1987. (San Luis Obispo Co. Sheriff's Office)
These tattoos were found on the body of an unidentified man discovered in Morro Bay in 1983. (San Luis Obispo Co. Sheriff's Office) These tattoos were found on the body of an unidentified man discovered in Morro Bay in 1983. (San Luis Obispo Co. Sheriff's Office)

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's detectives have been trying for 28 years to identify a man they call "John Doe 3." 

A clay model of his head is a key clue to the man's identity.  

Investigators want to reach his survivors.

"It's not something they want to hear, that their friend is dead, but at least they know where they are and they are not just missing somewhere in the world," said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Detective Jason Caron.

John Doe 3 was found shot to death in 1987 in a heavily wooded area near the Cambria Cemetery. Investigators believe his body had been there between two and ten years. His death was determined to be a suicide.
 
"In the majority of our cases, the reason decedents are unidentified is that they are in advanced stages of decomposition," said Caron.

There are four other unsolved John Doe cases in San Luis Obispo County, including two homicides.

One victim was a man with several tattoos on his body. He was found shot to death in Morro Bay in July 1983. Investigators believe his body had been there for less than two months.

The second homicide victim was discovered north of Ragged Point in December 1990. His mutilated and badly decomposed body parts were left in bags. Due to the condition of his remains, his cause of death has not been confirmed.
 
The fourth John Doe was found off Highway 101 in Arroyo Grande in August 1999 and the fifth in Paso Robles in January 2012. 

One death appeared to be natural, while the cause of the other was undetermined, according to investigators. 

 "What we would start to do is, during the autopsy, collect hair samples, tissue samples and samples that we could use for DNA, as well as comparing bone structure to identify the person, how tall they are, what their ethnicity is because as people go through decomposition stages, their skin color may change," said Det. Caron.

Detectives have used a UC Santa Cruz forensic anthropologist to help with their investigations.  

"They will examine the bone structure to assist in making the age determination and will retain some bones for DNA," said Caron.
 
Some of the John Does' remains are kept in the SLO County Sheriff's property office. Others are cremated after investigators collected bones and other evidence.
  
Santa Barbara County has four John Doe cases. The most recent: a man's body found last July by bicyclists near Santa Maria on Tepusquet Canyon Road. 

Six months earlier in January, biology students found a partial jawbone on Santa Rosa Island. 

Detectives in Santa Barbara County also have two older cases. In July 2010, a man's body was found behind a remote farmhouse in Santa Maria. Five years earlier in April 2005, a middle aged man's body was discovered in a planter on Chapala Street in Santa Barbara.

Detective Caron said the John Doe cases are very tough to solve but that investigators never forget their mission.
 
"Our main goal here in the coroner's office is to identify these decedents so we can reunite them with their families and they can have closure, " said Caron.

He encourages families of missing persons to provide a DNA sample to law enforcement agencies investigating their loved ones' cases, along with photos and dental records. He emphasizes that the DNA is never entered into criminal databases, but it could help with identification if a relative's human remains are found.

The California Department of Justice database includes 3,000 unidentified persons.

Related coverage:
KSBY Investigates: Missing on the Central Coast
Slideshow: Missing on the Central Coast

Related links:
California DOJ Missing Persons
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System
The Doe Network
 

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