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Genetics, genealogy credited with identifying "John Does" in Ohio cases from four decades ago

Ohio Attorney General's office

Two "John Does" - one in Northeast Ohio, the other in Central Ohio - have been identified after more than 40 years thanks to genetic testing, geneology and in one case, a new tip.

Attorney General Dave Yost said these factors have come together to with evidence at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to help investigators in cold cases. He said these identifications will help detectives who are trying to solve these cold cases.

“When you don’t have an identity, you can’t do any of that 'shoe leather' work. So where we are today is the 'shoe leather' starts again," Yost said.

In August 2022, BCI unveiled a 3-D rendering of a facial reconstruction of an unidentified male found in 1987, in hopes of getting tips to jump start the cold case. Youngstown Police got some, including one that ultimately did not relate to their case but one in a case in another part of the state.

Detectives forwarded that tip to BCI, which realized its relevance to a 1981 case in Fayette County. That tip proved to be the missing piece and led to the identification of the remains as those of Theodore "Teddy" Long of Toledo.

Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said it's good to be able to call the vicim of a homicide by his name.

“Our condolences go out to the family who has been looking for 41 years to identify their loved one," Stanforth said. "We have an appreciation for the Youngstown Police Department and BCI for their assistance. Now our work begins to solve a homicide."

In the meantime, Youngstown police detectives continued working their "John Doe" case by seeking help from genetic genealogy research funded by the Porchlight Project, a nonprofit that offers support for families of missing and murdered persons.

It was ultimately determined the Mahoning County "John Doe" is Robert Sanders. Youngstown Chief of Police Carl Davis credited detectives for not giving up on efforts to solve this case.

“Those same men and women are driven by an inherent desire to solve the cases they investigate and provide resolution so that not only may the criminals be brought to justice, but that families can help find some peace in their lives," Davis said.

Yost said law enforcement is increasingly turning to DNA and genetic analysis to help solve crimes.

Anyone with information in the investigation regarding Theodore “Teddy” Long is encouraged to contact the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office at 740-335-6170.

Anyone with information in the investigation regarding Robert Sanders is encouraged to contact the Youngstown Police Department at 330-742-8900.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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