Ventura County Sheriff's Office & Medical Examiner’s Office Team with Othram to Identify a 1987 John Doe

After nearly four decades, an unidentified man, whose remains were found in California’s Los Padres National Forest, has been identified as Russell Alexander Stewart, born February 19, 1936.

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Published June 26 by Michael Vogen
Media Inquiries


In November 1987, the remains of an unidentified individual were discovered in the Los Padres National Forest’s Dome Springs Canyon, near Lockwood Valley, California. Officials responded to the scene and found the remains of a partially-buried man in an area that was typically used for target shooting. The unknown man’s height was estimated to be between 5’11” and 6’0” and his weight was estimated to be between 250 and 300 pounds.

At the time that his remains were discovered, the man was wearing a brown, long-sleeve zippered sweater, a brown geometric zig-zag patterned short-sleeved shirt, a pair of blue pants and brown underwear, and size 9-10 red and white tennis shoes. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP60645. Despite law enforcement’s efforts, the man could not be identified and he became known as Ventura County John Doe.

In June 2023, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office-Cold Case Unit, in collaboration with the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office, once again submitted forensic evidence to Othram in the Woodlands, Texas to determine if advanced DNA testing could help identify the man. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from the provided evidence and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown man. Othram’s in-house forensic genetic genealogy team then used this profile to conduct extensive genetic genealogy research, ultimately providing new investigative leads to law enforcement.

Using this new information, a follow-up investigation was conducted leading investigators to potential relatives of the man. This investigation led to the positive identification of the man, who is now known to be Russell Alexander Stewart, born February 19, 1936. Stewart was known to be missing since the early 1980s.

Funding for the advanced DNA testing and forensic genetic genealogy used in this case was provided by NamUs, a national clearinghouse that assists the criminal justice community with the investigation and resolution of missing, unidentified, and unclaimed persons cases across the United States and its territories. NamUs is funded and administered by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and is managed through a contract with Research Triangle Institute International. We are grateful for the support of RTI, NamUs, and the NIJ.

The identification of Russell Alexander Stewart marks the 41st case in the State of California where officials have publicly identified an individual using technology developed by Othram.

Help fund another case Your contributions pay for lab supplies and research tools

Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit to learn how we can help you with your case. With anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.