The cremated remains of John Doe sit at a Franklin County funeral home waiting for a name.
There’s still no explanation as to how the mystery man ended up floating in the Columbia River not far from Sacajawea State Park.
Little about the drowning victim’s identity has come to light in the months since his body was discovered on a sunny June afternoon.
He is one of more than 40,000 bodies that the National Institute of Justice estimates are unidentified in the United States. The Washington State Patrol reports there are at least 146 statewide.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
“In 20 years, this is only the second John Doe that I have had that I was not able to identify,” said Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel. “It’s unusual for the area.”
The body was so badly decomposed from being in the water for some time that officials at first couldn’t determine his ethnicity.
Blasdel estimates the man was in the water from two weeks to a month and could have floated to Franklin County from as far away as the Wenatchee area.
The man wore Adidas basketball shorts with colorful underwear. It was ultimately determined he was Caucasian, Blasdel said.
An autopsy showed there were no signs of injuries, and a toxicology report revealed no drugs but a high alcohol level, which Blasdel said is common in decomposing bodies.
He ruled the death a drowning.
During the autopsy, a distinct tattoo was found on the man’s right shoulder. The red tattoo with a black outline is somewhat similar to the Libra sign, only with curled ends.
Officials released a picture of the tattoo to the media hoping someone would recognize the ink and identify him. However, the tattoo image hasn’t helped solve the mystery so far.
“It’s so unusual,” Blasdel said. “We will even get the tattoo (artists) coming forward after seeing their work.”
Blasdel and officials called other law enforcement agencies in the region to check on missing person cases.
There was initial hope the body was connected to a Grant County case. Authorities in Oregon and a woman in the Midwest called about missing person cases, but none turned out to be John Doe.
“For weeks, we worked on (leads),” Blasdel said.
A state anthropologist in King County was called in to try to identify the body through DNA tests and dental records, Blasdel said. The anthropologist is working on the case, and Blasdel has yet to receive a full report.
The DNA and dental information also was entered into a national database of missing people.
Blasdel said the anthropologist plans to request the creation of a forensic facial reconstruction of what the man might have looked like to help identify him.
With no leads on John Doe’s ID, and because it doesn’t appear to be a criminal case, the body was recently cremated. The ashes were turned over to a funeral home.
The ashes will remain there for at least two years or until someone comes forward to claim them.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the Franklin County Coroner’s Office at 509-546-5885.