EASTPARK Authorities are closer to identifying the EastPark John Doe, after the Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed samples from the Boyd have been sent to a lab in a Texas.
The EastPark John Doe was found July 18, 2020, in a shallow grave on a piece of hunting property just off the Industrial Parkway in Boyd County. According to Kentucky State Police, the Doe was shot and buried face down in the grave.
Since discovering the body — which was a mere mile away from I-64 — troopers and Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond have been at a dead end attempting to identify the man.
The M.E.’s Office has sent samples from the case to Othram, a Texas-based lab that conducts genetic tests and genealogical research into the deceased. Othram’s work has cracked cases in Mississippi, Wyoming, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, Montana, Washington State and Canada. Recently, the lab has partnered up with Josh Hallmark, host of the podcast True Crime Bull****, which investigates the possible murders committed by deceased serial killer Israel Keyes.
Michael Vogen is the director of case management at Othram — his job is to work with various medical examiners’ offices, coroners and law enforcement to figure out if the lab’s technology can help them solve a case.
In the case of the EastPark John Doe, the answer is yes.
According to Vogen, a sample is taken from the body undergoing a method called “human DNA enrichment” that helps “get the good DNA to bubble to the surface” by dialing back the bacteria that might be in the mix from decomposition.
In the case of the EastPark John Doe, the sample is bone, since most of the decedent’s flesh had putrefied by the time he was discovered.
After doing the extraction and the cleanup, the DNA is then checked for quality — Vogen said that’s to make sure it has a decent enough profile to undergo genome sequencing. As far as the science end of it is concerned, that’s where the rubber meets the road, according to Vogen.
“CODIS is the FBI database, so if you’re a violent offender, you have your DNA put into the CODIS database,” Vogen said. “When you’re doing a CODIS search, there’s only 20 markers of DNA, so it can identify parent/child relationships or siblings. But when you have forensic evidence like this, Othram is going to look at tens of thousands and thousands of markers of DNA.”
Vogen continued, “We call it forensic grade genome sequencing, which is our propriety method we’ve developed.”
After a profile is developed, Vogen said the DNA is uploaded to GED Match, Family Tree DNA and their database DNA Solves. According to Vogen, the lab work takes roughly three months to complete, but the final leg that could prove key to solving the case is really dependent on the quality of the matches.
Vogen said the EastPark John Doe samples are still undergoing testing.
“It’s been a couple months and we’re still in the lab process, but everything looks good,” he said. “I talked to the lab folks and they said the evidence is very traceable. The key is, once you develop that DNA profile, I always celebrate that with the folks we work with because we’ve digitized the that evidence. You don’t have to worry about that evidence degrading over time. I’m about to date myself, but it’s like taking a CD and burning it into MP3 form.”
Based on the matches of the database, Vogen said genealogists will go piece together a family tree. If it’s a first or even a second cousin, that could be relatively short work. But if it’s a third, fourth or a fifth cousin match, Vogen said it could take a spell.
“If you have to start working from a fifth cousin or something, that takes some time to build through public records,” he said. “It’s tedious work and I know I could never do it. But there’s people out there who are really good at it and there’s folks who really enjoy it and leave no stone unturned.”
Based on what the geologists uncover, the information is then turned over to law enforcement, Vogen said. Authorities can then go out and speak with people who might be a cousin or a sibling — they may ask if they’re missing a loved one and if the person is willing to help, collect a DNA swab.
Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond said he’s excited about the new development in the case. When The Daily Independent called him earlier this week, it was the first time he heard the samples had been sent for testing to Othram.
“That news just made my day,” Hammond said. “I think it’s very much a step forward that could give closure to a family out there who is missing a loved one. I think someone out there is looking for this person.”
While Hammond’s office assisted Lawrence County, Ohio, authorities in the “Belle in the Well” case — which was solved using similar methods — Hammond said the EastPark John Doe is the first case his office has had undergo this type of testing.
“This is groundbreaking technology,” he said.
Morgan Hall, the spokesman for the medical examiner’s office, said the office is working with Othram to solve other cases around the state, too. According to Hall, Othram is testing in cases in Owen, Pendleton and Trigg counties.
According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS), Trigg has two open John Doe cases of two men — one found in 1973 and one in 1983 — found dead at Lake Barkley. Owen County has a Jane Doe from 1988, after a woman was found dead in an open field near Owenton, while Pendleton County has a 1996 case of a man found dead in a dry creek bed in Falmouth.
Hall said the ME’s Office is willing to do whatever it takes to identify these Does.
“We are very hopeful these new techniques will identify these people, shed light on investigations and give closure to families and loved ones,” Hall wrote in an email.
While authorities are awaiting results and following up leads, there are a few things the general public can do to assist. Othram accepts donations of both money and DNA samples through its own DNA database, DNA Solves. The page for the East Park John Doe can be found at: https://dnasolves.com/articles/eastpark_john_doe/.
Anyone with any information regarding the EastPark John Does can call KSP Det. Matthew Boarman at (606) 928-6421.
The EastPark John Doe is described as 5-foot-8 and between 140-160 pounds. He had dark brown hair between ear lobe and shoulder length.
(606) 326-2653 |