Wichita man identified as Sedgwick County's '94 John Doe; murder mystery still unsolved
SEDGWICK COUNTY, KAN. (KAKE) - The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office has worked tirelessly over the last three decades with hopes of identifying their 1994 "John Doe" who was found deceased and dumped in a Sedgwick County field.
Now, through additional detective work and forensics, he's gotten his name back.
His name is Harold "James" Crawford.
"No one should go nameless. No one should be murdered without justice," said Othram's Chief Development Officer Dr. Mittelman. "We don't feel like it's justice unless it's provided to everyone, every case, and everywhere."
"I remember that first news that came on... I'm guessing maybe that was '94? I remember seeing that sketch on the TV. I was busy, I had three little kids, but I remember being in the living room and seeing that and thinking 'God... that kinda looks like James, but no there's no way. That person looks too old...' and then I just let it go. I am so mad at myself for doing that. I don't know why I did that," Debra Ruiz, James' older sister shared with KAKE's Hannah King.
Ruiz remembers her little brother as a 'cool little kid.'
"My heart is just really broken. I was looking at some of those pictures. God, it's just really hard," Ruiz added. "I watched those videos, the old videos from the news and stuff and I'm just like 'why didn't I push more to figure out where he was,' but I really thought he was moved off and married. I still don't know what happened."
She says she was shocked and heartbroken when she learned the news that James had been found deceased.
"I was shocked, because I had looked for him over the years," she recalled. "Never could get nothing. We was told a story that he moved away with some girl and got married and was tired of our dysfunctional family. I respected that and wanted to give him his space."
But now, knowing her brother was murdered, her heart is shattered.
According to the Sedgwick County Cold Case website, "On October 29, 1994, the body of an unidentified male was found in a field located at 5600 W. 47th St. S." The department has now said this male has been identified as James Crawford.
Ruiz lives out-of-state and continues to wonder if she will ever know what her baby brother did to deserve this.
"Someone would take him... roll him up in a blanket... and throw him in the dirt. I just can't even wrap my head around somebody doing that to somebody."
James Crawford was 21-years-old at the time of his death and living on the east side of Wichita when he went missing. It was reported that he left town and ceased all contact with people locally, but that wasn't even close to being the truth.
"There was an original Wichita Police Department case, where he was reported as a missing person. However, when follow up was done with the family, they had been told that he moved out-of-state or out-of-country and the report was cancelled or closed," Detective Chad Graham with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said.
"We have been able to provide back so many investigative leads and we can compare our law enforcement sample that comes in and say upfront whether we are certain we can built a profile or not. We no longer consume evidence or budget, unless we are certain we will be able to build a profile and help with the investigation," Othram's Dr. Kristen Mittelman said.
Crawford's identity was made through utilizing DNA technology and Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing by Othram. Othram is a one-of-a-kind lab out of Texas. It's a growing team of nearly 70 specialists in their fields and they send justice to cases all over.
Othram's website reads: "Developed by Othram, Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® or FGGS® is used by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies across the United States and internationally to break through previously impenetrable forensic DNA barriers and close previously unsolvable cases. More forensic genetic genealogy cases have been solved with Othram FGGS® than any other method."
"We build a profile as complete as possible with as many markers as possible, then we upload that to genealogical databases consented for law enforcement use, including our own DNASolves, and when we upload that, we are able to actually get the most distant relationships -- a 6th cousin here, a 5th cousin here, a 4th cousin here. A successful profile has many matches. Most of them are really distant relatives. Our genealogy team goes in and works with all those matches to identify the most recent common ancestor and then they build back down the (family) tree until they are able to identify our victim or perpetrator of that crime," Dr. Kristen Mittelman, Othram's Chief Development Officer said.
Det. Graham said Othram returned a result with a close family member and through a series of questions, the department landed on James Crawford.
"There are families that have held onto this pain for decades and decades. No one should have to wait decades to find out what happened to their loved one. We should live in a world where that is done immediately," Dr. Mittelman added. "We should live in a world where there are no unidentified remains."
When Othram started operations in 2019, the team announced five cases that entire year. Dr. Mittelman hopes that we can live in a world where it's "five cases an hour."
"You are able to identify a man who was murdered in '94. You are able to give him his name back, you are able to give him back his story and show his family that he didn't just run off and get married and never want to talk to his family, he was murdered...," KAKE's Hannah King said.
"It's incredible," said Othram's Dr. Mittelman. "... and they hope that they've run off and are living a normal life, but they don't have those answers. There's nowhere to bury their loved one, no where to visit them, nowhere to know how to get answers for what happened. Most of the time, when we are able to identify a victim, just like what we did in this case, law enforcement is able to piece together the last few weeks of their lives. It's very hard for law enforcement to investigate a case, when they don't know who the victim is, because where do you start? Unless you have an eyewitness, what do you do."
Once that name is found, and their result is confirmed with CODIS, (Combined DNA Index System) Othram says law enforcement then launches an investigation just as they would back in 1994. Dr. Mittelman says more times than not, it leads to justice.
Justice is what she's hoping for in this case too. Even after they've identified James, they aren't done. She, too, wants who is responsible for James' death caught.
"More times than not it leads to the perpetrator of the crime and getting justice for the victim as well and I hope that's what happens in this case. I hope that you telling your story, gets someone out there to say 'I remember him. I remember the last time I saw him. I am going to call in.' I can't tell you how many times a story in the media led to someone calling in a tip that solved the case. All of us have a part in this. All of us have a part in this process that ends up giving people their name back. Not only a place to rest, but also justice," Dr. Mittelman shared.
"At this time... I think that without them (Othram) we wouldn't have gotten an I.D.," Det. Graham said.
"We are able to take perpetrators off the street that had future victims on the target list. There are people out there today that have gone about to live a perfectly normal life. They won't know that they would have been the next victim of these perpetrators and it's because of the work that we have built here at Othram and that's incredible to me. It's an honor to be trusted with these samples. It truly is. It's an honor to work with law enforcement that's willing to try something new," Dr. Mittelman shared.
With a name now and after further investigation, the picture is starting to become clearer for Detective Graham. He says there are some people of interest that he's interviewing. He's also working on collecting evidence in other areas, including an undisclosed scene.
"To close or clear this case, we would have to present facts to the District Attorney's Office that would ultimately lead to someone being prosecuted. If the person is no longer with us and the D.A. believes charges could have been filed had that person been alive, then they will clear that case as that person being a suspect, or if there is a suspect located, then charges will be brought against them," Det. Graham shared.
When asked if it's possible that someone could be charged in this case, Det. Graham said he "hopes so".
Crawford was 21 around the time of his death, and if alive today, he would be 50-years-old.
Tips are still very encouraged in this case, because it's not quite solved yet. Det. Graham says helpful leads did come in from our last story in the spring, but he hopes now, if you remember Harold Crawford, who went by "James," to call him.
"No information is too insignificant", he says.
Since Detective Graham has become a detective with the S.C.S.O, this is the first "John Doe" case they've been able to associate a name with. He says they do have another 'unidentified persons' case and he is looking forward to putting a name with her as well.
Det. Graham said a grant was applied for by the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office and this case was awarded funds to cover the forensic testing for this case.
"We depend on private donors, sponsorship, and public support to help law enforcement fund the necessary work to help solve a case," Othram said.
If you feel compelled to help fund a case through crowdfunding for this similar testing and research, you can learn more through Othram's 'DNASolves' site by visiting, here.
"We hope we can create a process that gives everyone justice. Everytime. Everywhere." Mittelman said. "We are down to working with just a few human cells at a time when identifying someone. We are doing all sorts of things that were previously thought to be impossible."
If you have any information regarding this case, or any other cold case the S.C.S.O is investigating, please contact the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office by calling (316) 660-3799, or by sending an email to [email protected].
You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (316) 267-2111.