Dallas County John Doe “Sandie” – Iowa 1987

Redgrave Research Forensic Services is collaborating with funeral director Lanae Strovers with permission from the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office to attempt to determine the identity of Dallas County John Doe, nicknamed “Sandie”, whose remains were cremated. Dr. Samantha Blatt of Idaho State University, an expert on bone histology and microscopy with special expertise in analyzing cremains, is assisting in this case. We hope to be successful in an attempt to extract DNA from a portion of these cremains with the goal of utilizing forensic genetic genealogy for identification of the deceased.

Dallas County John Doe was a young man who was fatally hit by a car in Dallas County, Iowa on October 19, 1987. The deceased was described as being around 5’10” to 6 feet tall with reddish-brown hair. A young man of around the same age, Ron Bray, was the first to witness the accident and attempted CPR. Ron’s father, Joseph Bray, was an EMT at the time and was a first responder on the scene. When the young man’s remains were cremated, Joseph Bray was granted custody of the cremains. The family, not knowing his true name, nicknamed him “Sandie” because of his hair color. His family kept the cremains until they moved out of state in 2011. The Bray family turned over the urn along with a letter detailing the case and their connection to it before moving away.

Letter from Joseph Bray – click to enlarge

Lanae Strovers discovered the urn along with several others that were unlabeled, unidentified or unclaimed. The letter that came with the urn is the most detailed information available about the case, as the location of the police report and autopsy results are currently unknown.

Extracting and sequencing DNA from cremated remains is not an easy task, as heat destroys DNA. However, Dr. Samantha Blatt was able to find a tooth root within the cremains that may be suitable for extraction and sequencing. Redgrave Research Forensic Services is cautiously optimistic about the odds of obtaining a usable DNA profile.

We will continue to provide updates as they are available as we work together to give this young man the best possible chance of being identified.