Technology Helps Create 1st Visuals of Young Man Found Dead 23 Years Ago in O.C. Wilderness

New sketches released Oct. 1, 2019, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department show what an unidentified male whose remains were found in Trabuco Canyon 1996 might have looked like when he died.

New sketches released Oct. 1, 2019, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department show what an unidentified male whose remains were found in Trabuco Canyon 1996 might have looked like when he died.

Investigators in Orange County are hoping that sketches created using new technology will help identify a young man whose body was found in a wilderness area nearly a quarter-century ago.

The sketches were released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday.

“Sometimes seeing a picture can spark a memory and that could lead to information,” said Kelly Keyes, supervising deputy coroner. “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.”

The human remains were found on Dec. 13, 1996, in Trabuco Canyon. At the time, investigators estimated that the remains had been buried there for up to two years and that the individual had gone missing sometime in 1995 or 1996. The person has never been identified.

Investigators have continuously reviewed the case over the years, submitting samples to the California Department of Justice for DNA testing in 2003. A DNA profile was then created, confirming that the John Doe was a male.

Then, in 2010, the Coroner Division partnered with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children in an attempt to find leads that could identify the person. In 2019, a scan of the skull was created and submitted to the center, which then developed renderings of what the John Doe might have looked like.

Forensic anthropologists determined that the victim was caucasian or Hispanic, and approximately 14 to 25 years old, possibly with red or sandy-brown hair, and with teeth in poor condition. The young man was determined to be approximately 5 feet, 2 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches with a medium build.

The images released Wednesday were created with reconstruction and DNA technology and are the first visuals of the young man.

“Over the years, there have been occasional leads to who he might be, yet he has not gotten his name back,” Keyes said. “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.”

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