The person whose body washed ashore on Sucia Island last month is still unknown after a dental search failed to identify them.
“We just received word that the dental records are inconclusive which means at this time we have a John Doe,” San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs said. “At this time, it is a wait and see if anyone is reported missing and matches who we have here.”
The person is believed to be male, 50-70 years of age, approximately 5’10’’ tall, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office. There is evidence of an old left hernia repair and he has had multiple dental restorations — including a gold-crowned tooth on the lower right mandible and several missing teeth. He was discovered wearing black Stansfield’s long underwear, a brown T-shirt and brown or black socks. Located nearby was a pair of size 36/32 green Haggar khaki pants, a size 34 brown leather belt and a single brown leather Lockport men’s shoe, size 10W. The Sheriff’s Office is unsure whether these items are related to the body.
A boater discovered the human remains on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, and called the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.
“It was mainly bones,” Krebs said. “The remains have been in the water for quite some time.”
Sucia Island is a Washington State Marine Park located about two miles north of Orcas Island. It is 0.8722 square miles and is accessible only by boat.
According to a study by James L Caruso, M.D., in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a body in water is affected by temperature, animal predation, clothing and microorganisms — just like it would be on dry land.
“Additional variables such as current and the physical changes brought about by saturation of the tissue will alter the appearance of a body located in water,” Caruso wrote.
Cooler temperatures slow the decomposition process, according to Caruso.
“Determining the cause and manner of death for bodies recovered from water can be challenging,” Caruso wrote.
Currents are “extremely important,” according to a 2001 study in the journal Legal Medicine, because they can transport bodies far distances. This could make for difficulties identifying the body based on missing person data — especially if the person originated in Canada.
“Furthermore, when the victim’s body is found on the shore of a foreign country, additional complications arise regarding identification,” research scientists wrote in the study.