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Oneida County continues investigation into John Doe cases

Story By Cooper Henckel
Local News Published 03/03/2021 5:30PM, Last Updated 03/03/2021 5:32PM
Oneida County - The US government estimates over 4,000 unidentified bodies are recovered each year nationwide.
A quick search on NamUs, a nationwide law enforcement database of missing and unidentified persons, shows two John Doe cases in Oneida County. They're not suspected to be murders, but they are big mysteries.

While Forest and Vilas Counties have no John or Jane Does on record right now, Oneida County has 11! Medical Examiner Crystal Schaub says the first step in finding their identities is remembering that some body is somebody.
"They matter to us because they're somebody," says Schaub. "They're somebody's father, mother, brother, sister, child."

The oldest unidentified person case in Oneida County is over a century old.

"The earliest John Doe that we have on file is August 1905," says Schaub. "We believe he was a victim of a railroad accident."

Two of the most recent cases are listed on NamUs.

"The newest case that we have on file is John Doe 2000," says Schaub. "It's a man who was found in the woods in Harshaw. John Doe 1980 was found in the town of Pine Lake."

And there are clues, evidence Schaub believes makes identifying these two men possible.

"Each case has something that is specific to that person," says Schaub.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 slowed progress on the two active investigations.

"All the labs labs in Wisconsin that we typically use for our DNA are backlogged with other cases AND they're doing the COVID testing," explains Schaub.

Real life mysteries don't get solved quickly like on TV even when there isn't a pandemic going on, but Schaub says the one thing TV shows do have right? Sometimes all it takes is a little clue to break a case.

"Somebody out there knows something," says Schaub. "Somebody out there saw something. Gave one of these men a ride or saw them at a gas station or had a conversation with them at a bar. somebody knows something."

Over the next two weeks, I'll be working with Schaub and local authorities to help bring those memories to the forefront in hopes that somebody out there will remember something.

If you have any information that may help identify these men, please contact the Oneida County Sheriff's Department:

Non-Emergency Number: (715) 361-5100
Anonymous Tip Line: (715) 362-TIPS (8477) or (715) 361-5199
Email: (Cpt. Terri Hook) tmhook@co.oneida.wi.us
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