An unidentified homicide victim found by a hunter in October 2006 near the Big Spring Snow Park in far eastern Linn County probably lived for a brief time in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana or Florida, according to new information acquired by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
Detective Mike Harmon said that in the decade since the man’s body was found in a shallow grave, technological advances have made it possible for researchers to predict the person’s hair and eye color and even what he or she looked like, including whether they might have had freckles.
Harmon and Sheriff Bruce Riley hope that the new information will lead to identification of the man believed to have been between the ages of 25 and 45 and from 5’8” to 6’1” tall.
“We sent hair samples in for isotope research and samples of bone in for DNA testing,” Harmon said. Samples were sent to a company called Parabon NanoLabs and to the University of North Texas.
Harmon said the isotope information led researchers to pinpoint the victim’s locations for the two months leading up to his death. The DNA sample helps researchers determine personal traits.
Harmon said it appears the man moved between cool and warm climates several times in the two months leading up to his death, leading to speculation that he may have been a transient or someone with a warrant out for them.
The man also had an extra vertebrae, and suffered from a condition called spondylolysis, which Harmon said may have caused extensive back pain.
“The tests also indicate the man was most likely of western European descent, Caucasian,” Harmon said.
Harmon said the man was a victim of homicide, but declined to say what type of weapon may have been used. The victim had been dead about 18 months or more, Harmon said.
When the man’s body was discovered, LCSO detectives worked with the State Medical Examiner’s Office and the State Museum of Anthropology at the University of Oregon in an attempt to discover the man’s identity.
They also worked with Joyce Nagy, a certified forensic sketch artist with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office to create a rendering of what the man may have looked like. It greatly resembles the new sketch made using the latest DNA data.
During the original investigation, detectives found that the man had poor dental health, although only minimal dental work had been performed.
He was wearing a gray T-shirt with a Sideout brand logo on its front, black Dungarees brand denim pants, blue with black trim nylon-type athletic pants and “K-Air” brand white tennis shoes, approximately size 11-12.
Harmon said the man’s DNA information has been entered into federal databases, but so far, there have been no hits.
“When this case first started, there were about 100 potential missing persons or persons with warrants that were checked out, but nearly all have been eliminated through DNA or dental matches,” Harmon said. “We’ve also hit up many people who might know about this type of thing and nothing has turned up.”
Harmon said the cost of the new research totals about $7,000 which comes from the annual budget for investigations.
“This case is 10 years old,” Sheriff Bruce Riley said. “It’s one of those cases where if we don’t solve it now, we might lose it for good. We want to find out who these people are. There are family members who go to sleep at night wondering.”
There are about two dozen unsolved homicide cases in Linn County that detectives continue to work on.
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call Detective Harmon at 541-967-3950.
Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.