The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has renewed efforts to determine the identity of remains discovered in Trabuco Canyon nearly 27 years ago.
Homicide investigators responded to a report regarding the discovery of human remains in a wilderness area east of Trabuco Creek Road in the unincorporated of Trabuco Canyon area on Dec. 13, 1996, spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.
At the time, it was estimated the remains had been there up to two years, with environmental factors affecting their condition. Investigators believed the decedent went missing in 1995 or 1996.
Based on initial anthropological estimates from 1996, it was believed the remains were those of a 15- to 19-year-old male, approximately 5 feet, 2 inches tall to 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a medium build, Braun said
A report from an odontologist — a person who studies the structure and diseases of teeth, especially one who uses their knowledge to identify people and help solve crimes — indicated that the person’s teeth were in poor condition, and the findings were submitted to a Department of Justice database, Braun said.
He was given the name John Doe.
The Orange County Coroner Division in 2020 partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in an attempt to generate leads that might deliver an identification.
A computed tomography scan of the skull was created in 2020 and submitted to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which used the latest reconstruction techniques to develop renderings of what John Doe may have looked like.
With the new information, the center modified its initial sketch from 2019 to produce a new likeness that reflects the potential Latin American descent of John Doe.
The sheriff’s department in 2020 partnered with the DNA Doe Project in an attempt to identify the subject. Based on further genetic testing, it is believed the subject is likely from a remote/rural area in Latin America due to the very low threshold of genetic matches.
A team of volunteers who are specialists in Spanish-language databases was brought onto the case in September 2021 by DNA Doe Project case managers while a forensic artist affiliated with the DNA Doe Project provided an additional rendering of the unidentified subject.
Anyone with information regarding Doe’s identity was urged to call the Orange County Coroner Division at 714-647-7400 or email coroner@OCSheriff.gov with reference number 96-07901-MU.