BOTHELL, Wash. — A Montana sheriff's department worked with a nonprofit to identify the remains of a Bothell man reported missing in 1996.
Steven Edward Gooch was 29 years old when he went missing. His family last heard from him in 1995 and reported him missing the next year. His remains were found in Oct. 2003 in Marion, Montana near Redgate Road.
Nineteen years after Gooch’s remains were discovered in Montana, they were finally identified thanks to innovative science.
The Flathead County Sheriff's Office partnered with DNA Doe Project to investigate the remains. The nonprofit is made up of volunteers who work with law enforcement to investigate genetic genealogy in an effort to identify remains.
“This means using DNA matches to build family trees for John and Jane DOE's and then ultimately come to their identity," said Cairenn Binder, a volunteer with the DNA Doe Project. "That's a little bit different from traditional DNA testing, where you need to have a really close match like a mother, father, sister, brother, to identify the John or Jane Doe, because we can look at really distant matches to figure out who they are.”
Close to 20 people from the DNA Doe Project have been working on Gooch's case for three years, Binder said. In January, they found several people who they believed could be a relative of the man whose remains were found in 2003.
“We kind of had a breakthrough in the last few months finding an important marriage between some sets of matches. And that's what ultimately led to his identity," she said.
The sheriff's office contacted a man who said his son had left Bothell in 1995 and had not been heard from since that year. Gooch was in San Diego at the time and told his family he was headed to Las Vegas.
The DNA Doe Project compared the DNA of the remains to the DNA of the man the sheriff had contacted in Washington state and confirmed they were father and son.
Binder hopes the DNA Doe Project's work brings an end to nearly 25 years of wonder and worry.
“I hope that the degree of closure that we can provide for the family, you know, makes up for some of the loss,” said Binder.
The sheriff's office did not release any details about the cause or manner of Gooch's death.
The Flathead County Sheriff's Office said it hopes to learn more about the last days of Gooch's life.
Anyone with information releveant to the investigation can contact the FCSO at 406-758-5600 or email email@example.com.