A body found along Turtle Creek near Clinton in 1995 might finally be identified by comparing the man’s DNA to DNA records in a genealogy database.
The process is much the same as the one investigators in California used to find the man now accused of being the Golden State Killer, according to representatives of an organization that could be called on to do the research, the DNA Doe Project.
The nonprofit group recently had its first success, identifying the body of a young woman that had not been identified since it was found in Ohio in 1991. That woman, Marcia L. King of Arkansas, had been called Buckskin Girl because of her clothing.
There’s a potential problem with the local case, however, said Capt. Todd Christiansen of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office: The amount of DNA that remains is very small.
Sheriff’s office investigators will check with experts before committing the DNA to testing, Christiansen said.
The unidentified body has been dubbed John Clinton Doe because he was found near Clinton. Previous investigations indicated the body was of an older teen or young man. It was highly deteriorated when found in 1995. The body was clothed in a T-shirt from the rock band Venom.
An FBI artist using facial reconstruction software in 2014 produced an image of what the man might have looked like, but no one stepped forward to identify him. That was one of many fruitless appeals to the public over the years.
Jack Friess, a volunteer investigator who started looking into the case when he was a deputy Rock County coroner, told the Rock County Public Safety and Justice Committee on Monday that the new DNA method looks like a promising avenue of investigation.
Friess said he encouraged sheriff’s office investigators to consider the genealogical DNA method. Christiansen said the sheriff’s office had considered the method but found the price tag—several thousand dollars—too high.
Christiansen recalled John Clinton Doe’s DNA is from bone.
The DNA Doe Project uses volunteer investigators, but someone still would have to pay $20 to $50 for a test to see if the DNA might be usable and another $750 for the DNA sequencing work if the DNA is from bone or teeth, said Margaret Press, the group’s co-founder. Even then, the DNA might turn out to be unrelated bacteria, Press said.
There could be other problems, too. The DNA might be too degraded or the database of other DNA sequences might not have enough samples to pinpoint John Clinton Doe’s relatives, Press said.
“We have to be honest and say, the odds are against you,” Press said.
If investigators do come up with something, that result has to be corroborated with relatives, which could take many weeks, Press said.
If the organization takes the case, and if the sheriff’s office decides to test the DNA but won’t foot the bill, the testing could be crowd-funded through the organization’s DoeFundMe program, Press said.