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Detectives Identify John Doe, Victim of Late 1980’s Homicide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  August 12, 2020

CONTACT: Courtney O’Keefe, Director of Communications, Snohomish County Sheriff’s OfficeCourtney.O’Keefe@snoco.org, 425-388-3865, Media line: 425-249-6263

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – After nearly 26 years of working to identify a John Doe, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit, Cold Case Team and the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office have positively identified him. Rodney Peter Johnson was born in 1962 and his body was found in Lake Stickney in 1994. Rodney sustained a gunshot wound to the head. For more than two decades, Rodney’s remains went unidentified.

Rodney was last seen by family members sometime around late 1987 or early 1988 when he reportedly left on a camping trip.

On June 11, 1994, Rodney’s body was found floating in Lake Stickney. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner determined his body was covered in a soap-like substance called adipocere, indicating his body had likely been underwater for many years. Detectives believe Rodney was killed in 1987 and his body was weighted down under the water until it surfaced in 1994.

In an effort to identify the body, extensive work was done over the years by the Medical Examiner to create sketches of what the victim may have looked like, however all efforts were unsuccessful.

Successful identification of Rodney was established using Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing and genealogy.  In January 2020, Detective Jim Scharf and Snohomish County Medical Examiner Lead Investigator, Jane Jorgensen began working with Othram, Inc. to build a genealogical profile from the victim’s degraded DNA so they could use genetic genealogy to identify his body. DNA Solutions had previously extracted the victim’s DNA from a tooth but there was less than a fifth of a nanogram of degraded human DNA available. The sample was sent to Othram for sequencing and genealogy.

In May 2020, Othram uploaded the victim’s DNA profile to GEDmatch, a public genetic genealogy website, and a promising match was found for the victim’s first cousin. The Detective and the Medical Examiner Investigator determined the remains likely belonged to Rodney Johnson.  In June, a DNA sample was voluntarily acquired from the victim’s father and a brother.  On August 4, those DNA results verified the remains are those of Rodney Peter Johnson. He would have been 25-years-old at the time of his murder.

Because of this identification, detectives are asking for people to come forward with information, specifically:

  • Anyone who knew Rodney or knew of his activities in or around the mid to late 1980’s (he would have been about 25-years-old at the time of his murder);
  • Anyone who may have information regarding Rodney or his last known whereabouts;
  • Anyone with information regarding the murder of Rodney Johnson.

Detectives believe Rodney lived on NW 60th in Ballard and worked at The Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant on 17th Avenue around the time of his killing. 

If you or anyone you know has information related to this case, please call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line 425-388-3845.

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Rodney and brothers

Rodney and his brothers: (Left to right) Chris, Rodney, Raider, Randy (Ron)