July 22, 2024 7:15 am

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Homicide victim, 1977 John Doe, identified 45 Years later

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – After 45 years of working to identify a John Doe, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit – Cold Case Team, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office, and Othram Inc. have positively identified him as Blaine Has Tricks. Detective Jim Scharf led today’s press conference with Sheriff Adam Fortney.

Blaine, a 38-year-old man from North Dakota, disappeared in 1977 after living in Spokane, Wash. for several years. In 1974, Blaine hopped a train with his brother to Spokane and went transient to the state of Washington. He was last known to be in the Spokane area in February 1977. Blaine was never heard from again and was not reported missing.

On September 7, 1977, a bulldozer operator discovered human remains in the Marysville Landfill.  The Snohomish County Coroner’s Office called the decedent “John Doe” under Coroner’s case number 77-9-683. Snohomish County Coroner Bob Phillips said it appeared that the decedent had been deceased for about two weeks.  The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office investigation determined that the refuse in the landfill was not residential trash but came from business dumpsters in downtown Seattle.

On September 8, 1977, Dr. James F. Lipo performed an autopsy and noted extensive post-mortem trauma due to the compaction during transport and bulldozing processes at the landfill. The cause of death was undetermined due to the trauma and post-mortem interval, and Coroner Phillips classified the manner of death as Homicide.

The Seattle Police Department and the King County Sheriff’s Office were contacted since it was believed that the decedent came from a dumpster in downtown Seattle, and several missing persons were ruled out by circumstances and dental records.

In late September 1977, he was buried at the Marysville Cemetery. While it was common practice at the time to bury unidentified remains, skeletal remains that are discovered today are kept at the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office until they are identified.

In the years that followed, the case grew cold. Then, in 2008, Sheriff’s Office Detective Jim Scharf and retired Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ken Cowsert began reexamining old unsolved homicide and unidentified person cases in Snohomish County. With the emergence of new DNA technologies, the team was interested in exhuming this case with the hopes of obtaining DNA samples that were not taken during the initial exams. 

In 2009, the decedent was entered as an unidentified person in NCIC (the National Crime Information Center) which is the FBI’s computerized index that tracks crimes and missing persons.

In June 2011, Detective Jim Scharf wrote a search warrant to exhume the decedent’s body from the Marysville Cemetery and perform DNA testing to identify him.

Detective Scharf’s search warrant was approved and on June 16, 2011, the decedent was exhumed and the remains were then transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office for further examination.

In July 2011, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office entered the case into the federal National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

In September 2018, a section of femur bone was sent to the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center (UNTHSC) for DNA extraction and upload to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), but there were no matches.

In October 2019, multiple bones were sent to DNA Solutions, a laboratory in Oklahoma City, for microarray DNA testing. Unfortunately, the DNA extract did not contain enough human DNA for testing to proceed.

In 2020, Forensic Odontologist Dr. Gary Bell took dental radiographs of the decedent’s teeth and uploaded them to NCIC and NamUs in the hopes of getting a dental match with a known missing person, but there were no matches.

In January 2021, a section of femur bone was sent to Othram, Inc. for DNA extraction, testing, and a DNA profile that could be uploaded to genealogical databases. The funding for this laboratory work was provided by Audiochuck.

In April 2021, Othram successfully obtained a DNA extract that was sufficient for testing and they developed a DNA profile. The profile revealed that the decedent was predominantly Native American. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office uploaded the Othram DNA profile to GEDmatch and obtained a match at the great-niece level, which allowed the Medical Examiner’s Office to work with Native American Genealogist Martha Coleman to build family trees.  

Through family history and archived newspaper articles, the Medical Examiner’s Office learned that Blaine Has Tricks was in the Spokane area from 1974 until 1977, after he took a train to Spokane, Wash.  

The Bureau of Indian Affairs obtained DNA from three of Blaine’s relatives.  DNA testing of two of Blaine’s nephews confirmed the identification of Marysville Landfill John Doe as Blaine Has Tricks, who was born on May 21, 1939.

Anyone with information about Blaine’s activities in 1977 is asked to contact the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line at (425) 388-3845.

Statement from the Family

Blaine Has Tricks was member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal. Verle Red Tomahawk, Blaine’s nephew provided the following statement on behalf of the family:

“We are thankful for all of the hard work everyone put into getting Blaine identified.  Others would have given up a long time ago but you didn’t.  We appreciate your persistence.  The last members of Blaine’s family are thankful that he was identified and his remains are being sent home to where he belongs.”

Organizations involved in the case

In addition to the family members listed above, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their assistance on this case: Othram, Inc., Audiochuck, GEDmatch/Verogen, FamilyTreeDNA.com/Gene By Gene,  SCSO Detective James Scharf and SCSO Cold Case volunteer Ken Cowsert, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office and the late Dr. Katherine Taylor, PhD, forensic odontologist Dr. Gary Bell, DDS, genealogist Deb Stone, the Washington State Patrol Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit, NamUs and the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center.  Special thanks to Police Chief Molanna Clifford of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Ft. Totten, ND), Kelly Miles of the FBI (CJIS, Clarksburg, WV), and to Blaine’s relatives for sharing their stories, family history and records to help solve this 45-year-old mystery.

One Response

  1. Thank you to all who are working on this team on Cold cases , identity of victims and prosecution of offenders . What relief for families and friends. Keep up the great work!

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