On October 26, 2003 the decomposed and skeletal body (partial skeletal parts only) of a white male was found near Red Gate Road in Marion, Montana. It is believed the man, who was between the age of 18 and 42, had died up to 8 years prior to being found. It is believed he was 5’7” tall and wore size 11 Adidas tennis shoes. Also near the body were: a .22 caliber Smith & Wesson 433 pistol with “Uncle Mike’s Sidekick” black nylon holster; a duffel bag and fanny pack with a water bottle; a marijuana pipe; a hand held electronic poker game; sunglasses; and a bottle of Aleve.
Date Found October 26, 2003
Race White / Caucasian
Location Marion, Montana
Agency of Jurisdiction
Flathead County Sheriff’s Office
Links to More Information
On February 6, 2022 DNA Doe Project (DDP) and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) announced that the partial skeleton remains found in Marion, Montana were those of Steven Edward Gooch who was known as Marion/Flathead Co John Doe 2003. After more than three years of painstaking investigative genetic genealogy into very distant DNA matches, DDP volunteers were able to narrow down the Doe’s family to the descendants of a couple in Indiana who had migrated to the Seattle area.
Steven Gooch had been reported missing by his family in 1996. His badly decomposed and skeletonized remains were discovered in October, 2003 in the area of Redgate Road in Marion, and it was estimated that he had died 7-8 years previously. He would have been 30 years old when he died.
The DDP and the FCSO never gave up searching for the name of Marion/Flathead Co John Doe 2003, despite all odds. Without any missing persons matches from the area, the case went cold and progress was not made until Deputy Coroner Shelley Giebeig decided to see if investigative genetic genealogy could be used to identify the remains. She brought the cold case to the DNA Doe Project in 2018, having only a partial skeleton to work with.
After obtaining a DNA sample from the bones, laboratory analysis was performed to create a full DNA sequence and bioinformatics created a DNA profile that was uploaded to GEDmatch and FTDNA, public DNA databases. While there were matches in the systems, they were to very distantly related people. DNA Doe Project volunteers struggled to locate the most recent common ancestor among the matches, eventually identifying the correct branch of the family tree. Giebeig followed up with the five closest DNA relatives and made a connection with Steven Gooch’s father.
“Because we don’t charge for the investigative genetic genealogy, we can afford to work on a case to its conclusion, no matter how long it takes,” explained DNA Doe Project co-founder Margaret Press. “In this case, it took the dedicated work of talented genetic genealogists almost three years, but we were able to bring Mr. Gooch back to his family and community.”
The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Coroner Shelley Giebeig, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; Othram, Inc. for sequencing; Gregory Magoon for bioinformatics; GEDmatch and FTDNA for providing their databases; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home.
This Montana Right Now.com article has more information on the search for the name of Marion-Flathead Co John Doe 2003.
Image Credit: Michelle Hinojosa
Last Updated: February 8, 2022