OCSD Coroner releases new images to help ID John Doe from 22 years ago


Editor’s note: The Orange County Sheriff’s Department issued this news release on Tuesday, Oct. 1:

SANTA ANA, Ca. (Oct. 1, 2019) – The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Coroner Division, in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), has released new images utilizing the latest in reconstruction technology in the hopes of identifying a John Doe found in Trabuco Canyon nearly 23 years ago.

On Dec. 13, 1996, Coroner Division investigators and OCSD Homicide investigators responded to reports of human remains found in a wilderness area east of Trabuco Creek Road in the unincorporated area of Trabuco Canyon. At the time, it was estimated the remains had been there up to two years, with environmental factors affecting their condition. Investigators believe the decedent went missing sometime in 1995 or 1996.

Forensic anthropologists determined the decedent to be male, Caucasian or Hispanic, and approximately 14-25 years old with possibly reddish or sandy-brown hair. He was determined to be approximately 5’2” to 5’8” with a medium build. An odonatologist’s report, which showed the decedent’s teeth were in poor condition, also was taken and submitted to a Department of Justice database. He was given the name John Doe as investigators worked to learn his identity.

“Over the years, there have been occasional leads to who he might be, yet he has not gotten his name back,” said Kelly Keyes, Supervising Deputy Coroner. “As with all of our unidentified cases, which date back to the 1950s and includes nearly 100 cases, we continue to review these cases with the hope that John Doe will finally get a name.”

Over the years, investigators continued to review the case, ruling out various missing persons from time to time. In 2003, advances in DNA technology prompted the Coroner Division to submit John Doe’s samples to the California Department of Justice. A DNA profile was created, which confirmed John Doe as a male.

In 2010, the Coroner Division partnered with the NCMEC in an attempt to generate leads that might deliver an identification. In 2019, a computed tomography (CT) scan of the skull was created and submitted to NCMEC, which used the latest reconstruction techniques to develop renderings of what John Doe may have looked like.

“Sometimes seeing a picture can spark a memory and that could lead to information,” Keyes said. “This is the first time in more than two decades that we have been able to put a face to this John Doe, and now we’re looking to match that face to a name so we can bring closure to his family.”

Anyone who has any information about John Doe can contact the Orange County Coroner Division at 714-647-7000 or coroner@ocsd.org, reference case number 96-07901-MU.