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Seattle Police Foundation crowdfunding for DNA testing to crack cold case

Multiple body parts washed ashore south of Discovery Park in 2017 and 2018. The remains have never been identified.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Foundation is asking for the public’s help to raise $15,000 to pay for DNA testing to help solve a cold case.

Nearly six years ago, multiple body parts washed ashore south of Discovery Park. The remains have never been identified. The foundation's goal is to bring families closure.

On December 23, 2017, remains of a John Doe washed ashore. A hand was found by someone’s dog in the area of Fourmile Rock south of Discovery Park.

Seattle Police Homicide Detective Rolph Norton was called out to the scene.

“I went out to the calls and I remember those days vividly. It's very surreal," Norton said. "This wasn't an area that gets a lot of police activity, so our presence really was noticed and going through that experience as an investigator, it's very striking.”

Four weeks later, on January 22, more remains washed up in the same location. This time a torso and distinctive black and gold Air Jordan. Three days later the matching shoe washed up. 

Years later, investigators were left with more questions than answers.

“We don't know who he is, we don't know what happened to him, we don't know why he ended up in the water. It's just a pile of unanswered questions,” said Norton.

DNA was able to determine the remains belong to the same person. A man aged 20 to 40 years old, but that’s all investigators know.

“It's difficult for me to fathom that someone ends up in the water and washes ashore and we don't hear from someone else associated with the person say, 'Hey I'm missing someone'," Norton said.

"There are a ton of scenarios that could be linked to what happened to this individual but no one reached out,” said Norton.

The Seattle Police Foundation is now hoping to raise money to pay for forensic genealogy testing. It will take John Doe’s DNA profile and search it through public genealogy websites in hopes of finding a relative.

“It’s incredible and we've used this strategy several times on unsolved homicides,” Norton said.

Crowdfunding to support forensic DNA testing for the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office. Earlier this year, it was able to identify a woman whose foot was found in a sneaker on the shore near the mouth of the Elwah River in Port Angeles as 68-year-old Jerilyn Smith who had been missing since 2018.

An outcome Detective Norton is hoping for.

“This is quite the mystery and it's difficult to let something like that go. The case file has been an arm's length away on my desk since that day,” Norton said.

To donate to the effort, visit this link.

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