Remains found in Washington in 1970s identified as Topeka native 44 years later

Gary Haynie as a child (left). 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of what Spencer Island Doe may...
Gary Haynie as a child (left). 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of what Spencer Island Doe may have looked like (right).(Snohomish Co. Medical Examiner's Office)
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 8:22 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Medical Examiner’s Office in Washington has identified the remains of a man found in the late 70s as a Topeka native nearly 45 years after the body was found.

The Snohomish County, Wash., Medical Examiner’s Office announced in February that it had identified Spencer Island Doe - the name given to the remains of a missing person found in the 1970s - as a man born in Topeka about 44 years after his remains were found.

The Office indicated that on Jan. 3, 1979, a duck hunter found a human body entangled in a fishing line on the tide flats near Spencer Island - just south of Marysville, Wash. The cause of death was found to be undetermined as the tide flats were a harsh environment for the remains.

After a months-long investigation, officials said the body remained unidentified and on March 15, it was buried by a local funeral home at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Everett. At the time, it was common practice to bury unidentified remains, however, they said now the Office keeps unidentified skeletal remains. Due to the new process, the remains were exhumed in 2015 and given the name Spencer Island Doe.

In 2008, with the emergence of new DNA technology, Detective Jim Scharfe with the Snohomish Co. Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Team and retired County Superior Court Judge Ken Cowsert started to examine unidentified person cases.

In the years that followed, the Office noted that the case grew cold, and due to a less extensive record-keeping process, it remains unclear the extent of work that investigators did - including how many known missing persons the remains may have been compared to.

In July 2015, the Office said the case was reopened and Spencer Island Doe’s dental records were compared against the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center, however, no matches were made. In August, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

It was not until April 2016 that a forensic artist was called. Officials indicated that measurements and photos were taken and a facial reconstruction of what Doe may have looked like was drawn. Later that month, an examination of the remains was performed which estimated Doe had been a white male between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-6 between the ages of 27 and 61.

In September 2018, the Office indicated that Doe’s right femur was sent to the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center for a DNA upload into the Combined DNA Index System. Complete profiles were not gathered until March 2019 and were then successfully uploaded to CODIS, where again, no matches were made.

Between 2018 and 2021, the Office said investigators ruled out various missing persons through circumstances, testing and dental records. Finally, in 2021, the Office said it began to collaborate with Othram, Inc., to get an advanced DNA profile of DOE which would be suitable for genetic genealogy. By May of that year, DNA was successfully extracted from Doe’s remains and a DNA profile was developed.

With the help of Othram and its technology, the Office said it was able to confirm Doe was a white male and several matches to the DNA profile were obtained. An ancestor tree was built from several top matches and it was found that a man had gone missing near Everett in the late 1970s - Gary Lee Haynie.

According to the Office, DNA reference testing of Haynie’s half-sister confirmed that Spencer Island Doe was, in fact, Gary Lee Haynie who was about 29 years old when he went missing. He was either never reported missing or his missing person records were lost over time - which happens occasionally during the transition from paper to digital records.

The Office indicated that Haynie was born in Topeka and traveled the world with his mother and adoptive father who had been in the Air Force. Both parents have since passed away and the circumstances of Haynie’s disappearance remain unknown.

On Feb. 10, 2023, the Office said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Matty lacy officially identified Spencer Island Doe as Gary Lee Haynie and closed the 44-year-old mystery.