On March 10, 2019 a homeowner walking near Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee reported seeing a suspicious bag next to the lake shore. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies determined the bag, which turned out to be a golf bag, contained human remains. The Regional Forensic Center in Knoxville was unable to provide much information about the deceased other than he was a male of uncertain race/ethnicity, possibly white, an estimated 5′ 7″-5′ 10″ tall, and an adult less than 40-years-old. A black Walking Dead t-shirt and a leather belt stamped with the name “Gerald” found with the remains were not helpful in identifying the deceased. The case is being treated as a homicide.
NamUs ID: UP56927
Date Body Found: March 10, 2019
Estimated Age: Adult – Pre 40
Estimated PMI: Unknown
Location: Dandridge, TN
Agency of Jurisdiction
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
Michael O’Keefe, Agent
Links to More Information
The DNA Doe Project and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have identified a homicide victim found on the shore of Douglas Lake in 2019 as Earl Pizzoferrato of Knoxville.
On March 10, 2019 a homeowner walking the shoreline of Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee reported to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office a suspicious bag on the lakeshore. Jefferson County deputies determined the bag, a golf bag, contained human remains and requested the assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Investigators were unable to determine the John Doe’s race, age, or even how long he had been dead. After exhausting all leads, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation brought the case to the DNA Doe Project in 2020, hopeful that the use of investigative genetic genealogy could provide an ID.
Once a workable DNA profile was developed, the DNA Doe Project’s talented team of investigative genetic genealogists began tracing the John Doe’s relatives.
“Early on in the research, we were able to identify one set of his grandparents rather quickly,” said team member Eric Hendershott. “However, identifying his other set of grandparents took almost another year.”
The genealogy in this case was complicated by the fact that Earl Pizzoferrato had been adopted. The team came across an obituary that connected a number of DNA matches, which helped identify both of Earl’s biological parents. But no children were mentioned in the obituary, so the team hypothesized that this man may have been adopted. A biological relative later confirmed that all of the children in the family had been placed for adoption, and they provided key information that helped resolve this case.
“Hopefully, we are able to bring some sort of closure to the family,” Hendershott said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is pursuing leads in this ongoing homicide investigation. If you have any information, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the groups and individuals who helped identify Earl Pizzoferrato: the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; HudsonAlpha Discovery for extraction and sequencing of DNA; Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations for bioinformatics; GEDmatch Pro and FTDNA for providing their databases; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home.
Image Credit: Image compiled by Jack Friess, DNA Doe Project.
Last Updated: January 9, 2023