DNA links John Doe’s ancestry to Rio Arriba, Taos counties


Amateur sleuths are refusing to give up on solving a mysterious suicide from more than 10 years ago, and genealogists now believe they’ve helped narrow down the search of a John Doe’s ancestry to northern New Mexico.

The decade-old question of who is the John Doe authorities said committed suicide at a low-budget hotel in Washington state has captivated internet sleuths as investigators still search for answers.

The John Doe checked into the Lake Quinault Inn back in 2001 in a quaint little town called Amanda Park, about 60 miles west of Seattle, under the possible alias “Lyle Stevik,” a name from a Joyce Carol Oates novel.

Over the years, people have chimed in with their conspiracy theories about this mystery guest.

“Nobody knows how he got there, nobody knows who is is. He just decided one day, ‘Yep, that’s it.'” said Lyndsay Sawler, a moderator on a sub-Reddit about Stevik.

However, in the past month, volunteer investigators and genealogists with the non-profit DNA Doe Project linked John Doe’s DNA to what they call a cluster of potential matches in Rio Arriba and Taos counties in northern New Mexico.

“It appears there were a number of founding families that go back to the 1700s in that same area,” said Margaret Press, a genealogist and co-founder of the nonprofit. “They’re a close-knit community and intermarried a lot which is why we’re seeing such a heavy concentration.”

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe only knew John Doe’s DNA matched somewhere in northern New Mexico when he put out a call on Facebook this week for anyone with any possible ties or information to contact authorities.

“No authorities in Washington have contacted me directly,” Hogrefe said. “I just felt compelled based on the story — the article and the composite drawing — that there would be information possibly obtainable in our area.”

John Doe is believed to be a quarter Native American and a quarter Hispanic or Spanish.

The investigators said while narrowing down family origins is invaluable in learning who he is, it is possible the thousands of people following this case may never know John Doe’s true identity. Rather, the goal all along has been to bring closure for the family when that information finally does come to light.

“In Lyle’s case, particularly, because there was no crime involved, if the family is found and they request privacy, then the agency has asked us to never disclose his name,” Margaret Press said.

The other big mystery about John Doe’s death is why he chose the place he did to kill himself, and whether anyone ever reported him missing.

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