Orange County

Forensic Images Released in Hopes of ID’ing John Doe Whose Remains Were Found in Trabuco Canyon 22 Years Ago

"Investigators believe the decedent went missing sometime in 1995 or 1996."

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Coroner Division

Authorities Tuesday released forensic images showing what a man whose remains were found in Trabuco Canyon in 1996 may have looked like, and urged anyone with information on his identity to call them.

The images, which were generated using the latest in reconstruction technology, were released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department Coroner Division in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The remains were found on Dec. 13, 1996, 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," according to a sheriff's statement. "Investigators believe the decedent went missing sometime in 1995 or 1996." 

Forensic anthropologists determined the person was a white or Hispanic male, 14 to 25 years old, with possibly reddish or sandy-brown hair, Braun said. He was determined to be about 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a medium build.

A dental expert's report, which showed the decedent's teeth were in poor condition, was submitted to a Department of Justice database, and investigators listed the man as a "John Doe" and 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 Supervising Orange County Deputy Coroner Kelly Keyes. "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. And this year, a computed tomography 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, reference case number 96-07901-MU.

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