New lab test might help in Rock County cold case
JANESVILLE—The remains found along Turtle Creek in 1995 were those of a person who spent most of his life in Wisconsin, Michigan or Minnesota, according to tests conducted by a Smithsonian Institution scientist.
The test had never before been conducted on these remains, Rock County's only unidentified body, officials said.
Assistant coroner/analyst Jack Friess reported the results Monday to the county board's public safety and justice committee.
The analysis, done in the Smithsonian's Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, measures chemicals left in people's bones that come from the water they drink. Those chemicals are matched to drinking water samples from different regions.
The “stable isotope test” is said to be able to eliminate up to 90 percent of the world when finding where someone spent his or her childhood years.
Past efforts to identify the body had looked at other parts of the country, so the analysis will narrow the investigation's focus, Friess said.
The body, referred to as John Clinton Doe because he was found in the town of Clinton, was probably around 18 years old, Friess said. He was wearing only one shoe, a Nike Air sneaker, and a T-shirt with a logo from the English rock band Venom.
Earlier investigations assumed Doe was in his early to mid 20s, Friess said, so the focus on a younger person might yield results.
Friess has asked a Venom fan website to post information in hopes someone will recognize Doe.
Friess has been investigating the case for about a year, on his own time. The Smithsonian analysis and extraction of a sample from Doe's femur by Mercy Health System also were done free of charge.
Friess said he has begun working with a Rock County Sheriff's Office detective on the case and hopes they soon will have a plan for advertising the case to the three-state region where Doe is believed to have lived.
The lab analysis also showed an area in Mexico from which Doe might have come, but Friess said the three-state area is much more likely.
Friess said he continues to pore over missing person reports from the time, hoping to get a match. If facts fit the case, Friess can request dental or DNA tests in hopes of a match.
One of Friess' theories is that Doe was estranged from his parents, perhaps growing up in foster care or an institution, so when he disappeared, no one noticed his absence.
The cause of death has never been determined, Friess said.
“Some of us think it was probably natural causes, but you can't say for sure,” he said.