Blaine Has Tricks

Date Found: September 7, 1977

Date Identified: February 14, 2022

     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 Bob Phillips classified the manner of death as Homicide.

     Dr. Lipo estimated that the decedent was a white male from 20 to 40 years of age, 5’8” – 6’ tall, 155 – 160 pounds, with long black hair. Forensic Odontologist Dr. Robert W. Hansen performed dental charting on the decedent’s teeth to be compared to dental records of known missing persons.

     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.    

     The decedent was not identified quickly, and on September 20, 1977, Schaeffer-Shipman Funeral Home buried him 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 and, due to a far less extensive record keeping process by the Coroner’s Office (which was converted to a Medical Examiner’s Office in 1987), it is unclear the extent of work that investigators may have done, including how many known missing persons the remains may have been compared to. The same is true for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, whose initial written reports by the responding deputies and detectives are all that remain. Then, in 2008 Detective Jim Scharf with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Team 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. The process of identifying and reviewing the cases, obtaining exhumation permits, and conducting DNA testing can take years. 

     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 drafted a search warrant to exhume the decedent’s body from the Marysville Cemetery and perform DNA testing to identify him. The disinterment was paid for by funding from a federal grant awarded by the US Justice Department for DNA purposes in cold case homicides.

     Detective Scharf’s search warrant was approved within a few days and on June 16, 2011, the decedent was exhumed with representatives with the Sheriff’s Office, the Medical Examiner’s Office, and the late Dr. Katherine Taylor, the Washington State Forensic Anthropologist, in attendance. 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 National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). NamUs is a federal database funded by the National Institute of Justice and contains information on missing, unidentified, and unclaimed persons cases from across the country. Dental records and fingerprints, when available, can also be uploaded to a NamUs file which can then be easily compared against known missing persons nationwide who have had their own dental profiles and/or fingerprints uploaded.

     In March 2012, Dr. Taylor performed an examination of the remains and estimated that they belonged to a male with Hispanic, white, or Native American ancestry, 30 – 60 years of age, and between 5’4” and 5’10” in height. Trauma analysis showed that the remains were highly fragmented and incomplete due to the landfill processes, and that determining a cause of death would be difficult. The decedent’s cranium was reconstructed but due to the extensive post-mortem damage, the cranium and mandible were not suitable for a facial reconstruction. The process of reconstructing the cranium and re-assembling the skeletal elements took several years.

     In September 2018, a section of femur (leg 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). In March 2019, UNTHSC successfully obtained complete mtDNA and STR profiles which were uploaded to 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. DNA Solutions was able to obtain enough DNA for testing and the DNA extract was sent to Othram, Inc. in The Woodlands, Texas for further 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.

     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 generously provided by Audiochuck.

     In April 2021, Othram successfully obtained a DNA extract that was sufficient for testing after multiple rounds of extraction and human enrichment. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to develop a DNA profile that could be uploaded to genealogical databases. Biogeographical analysis of the DNA 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. The SCMEO built family trees with the assistance of genealogist Martha (Thompson) Coleman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and relatives Tipiziwin Tolman, Eugene “Pepper” Young, Maggie and Kelly Swanson, Eugene Four, Jr., Verle Red Tomahawk, and Lynette Pretends Eagle.  Through family history the SCMEO learned that Blaine Has Tricks disappeared in 1977 when he hopped a train to Spokane, Washington with his brother, Clayton "Ross" Has Tricks. Ross returned home to North Dakota, but Blaine was never heard from again and was not reported missing.

     Special Agent Molanna Clifford with 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 Doe as Blaine Has Tricks, who was born on May 31, 1939, and was 38 years old when he went missing. Old newspaper records place Blaine in Spokane, WA in February 1977 and it is unknown when and how he came to Seattle. If you have any information about Blaine or this case, please call the SCSO tip line at (425) 388-3845.

     On February 14, 2022, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Matt Lacy officially identified the decedent as Blaine Has Tricks. 

     Blaine was returned home to his family in North Dakota. He will be buried at the St. James Catholic Cemetery in Shield, ND. DaWise Perry Funeral Services in Mandan, ND handled the funeral arrangements. 

     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, 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.