Mecklenburg John Doe 2008

On December 24, 2008 partial skeletal human remains were found in a heavily wooded area on Dixie River Road in Charlotte, North Carolina. Forensic investigators determined the deceased to be a White/Caucasian male, 18-30 years old, and 5’5” to 5’11” tall. According to NamUs, the still unidentified young man had died approximately three years prior to being found. No information has been disclosed as to the cause and manner of death. However, the case is being treated as a homicide.

NamUs ID: UP51512
Date Body Found: December 24, 2008
Race: White/Caucasian
Gender: Male
Estimated Age: 18-30
Estimated PMI: 3 years
Location: Charlotte, NC

Agency of Jurisdiction
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Homicide Unit
Dawn Martin, Detective
[email protected]

Link to More Information

Status: Identified

Image Credit: Image compiled by Jack Friess, DNA Doe Project.

DNA connects man who went missing in 2003 to body recovered in 2008
Mecklenburg John Doe 2008 identified as Jose Espinosa of Charlotte

Charlotte, NC – The DNA Doe Project and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department have confirmed the identity of a man found December 24, 2008 as Jose Espinoza, who had been reported missing in May, 2003. 

Jose Elder Espinoza

When investigators located the partial skeletal remains in 2008, they estimated that the man had died about three years earlier, and that he was Caucasian. Unable to identify him through traditional techniques, the case went cold until they reached out to the DNA Doe Project in 2020 to try investigative genetic genealogy to make an identification. The case required multiple attempts to produce a workable DNA Profile, and shortly after the DNA Doe Project’s team of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists began their research, it became clear that the man’s ancestry pointed to Central America. 

“My team is so proud to be able to aid in the identification of Mr. Espinoza,” said team leader Gwen Knapp. “This case had challenging genealogy due to endogamy, adoptions and record availability.”

A routine review of missing persons in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS) by DNA Doe Project investigators located the record for Jose Espinosa, who had not been ruled out in the initial investigation. “The team was able to use clues the DNA provided to re-evaluate reported missing persons for potential identities,” Knapp shared. “DDP suggested Mr. Espinoza as a candidate and the agency was able to confirm that 2008 Mecklenburg County John Doe was indeed Mr. Jose Espinoza. This was truly a collaborative effort between the agency and DDP.”

The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; Astrea Forensics for extraction of DNA from tooth and bone; HudsonAlpha Discovery for sequencing; 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.

About the DNA Doe Project

The DNA Doe Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to identify John and Jane Does and return them to their families and communities. Investigative genetic genealogy research is provided pro bono to our partners in law enforcement, but the organization relies on donations to fund lab costs and operational support of our volunteers. To date, DDP has helped resolve more than 100 cases of unidentified human remains. For more about our work and to join our mission, visit our website:


Last Updated: June 13, 2023

Posted on

March 13, 2020