ALISO VIEJO, Calif. (TCD) — With the use of investigative genetic genealogy, officials have recently identified a homicide victim 49 years after his body was found near a fire road trail.
According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, on Sept. 14, 1974, two individuals who were off-roading discovered a man’s body. Authorities determined the victim died three to five days prior due to alcohol and diazepam intoxication and initially declared his death an accident. In a press release from Othram Inc., investigators believed the victim, who was classified as a John Doe, was between 18 and 25 years old at the time of his death.
Officials released information about the victim in the hopes that people would come forward with tips that could help identify him. The Criminal Identification and Investigation Division in Sacramento, the Federal Bureau of Identification, and Canadian authorities received the victim’s fingerprint classification but the results were negative, and they were unable to identify the victim.
Investigators worked for several weeks before the victim was buried as John Doe at El Toro Memorial Park in an unlabeled grave.
The sheriff’s office later learned multiple people died of alcohol and diazepam intoxication around southern California in 1978, and their deaths were ruled as homicides.
According to the sheriff’s office, during that time, authorities located numerous deceased men throughout Orange County and Southern California, including several who were within a few miles of where John Doe’s body was found.
The sheriff’s office said investigators suspected that John Doe may have been an early victim of Randy Steven Kraft, also known as the “Scorecard Killer.” A California Highway Patrol officer conducted a traffic stop on Kraft in May 1983 and noticed a deceased male, later identified as Terry Lee Gambrel, in the front passenger seat. According to the sheriff’s office, the officer also observed several empty beer bottles and an open prescription bottle of Lorazepam near his feet.
Kraft allegedly kept a “coded list” in the trunk of his car that named at least 67 of his victims. A jury convicted him in May 1989 of killing 16 people. The sheriff’s office said Kraft allegedly killed 10 other victims, but those crimes have not been filed by the Orange County district attorney’s office.
Kraft is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
In November 2022, investigators with the sheriff’s office submitted John Doe’s tissue samples to Othram Laboratories. A DNA profile for John Doe was created and shared with the sheriff’s office in February. Officials there uploaded the information into a genealogy database.
Investigators reportedly built John Doe’s family tree and identified his grandparents. The sheriff’s office located a granddaughter, and she told investigators she had not seen her 17-year-old brother since April 1974.
Investigators traveled to Kansas City and collected a DNA sample from John Doe’s potential mother. As a result, officials positively identified the victim as Michael Schlicht of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The sheriff’s office said they have notified the victim’s family members, and they are working to mark Schlicht’s gravestone.
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