A man who checked into an Amanda Park motel under the false name Lyle Stevik before taking his own life in September of 2001 has been identified through DNA testing as a 25-year-old California man, according to Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate.
Sheriff’s Office and The Daily World policy does not divulge the names of victims of suicide, and Shumate said the family, who had thought the man was still alive but just didn’t want any more contact with the family, said they would prefer not to divulge the man’s name.
“Investigators spent countless hours over the years attempting to identify the decased man,” said Shumate, adding for the 9 1/2 years he was a detective sergeant he field calls from Canada, Europe, all over the map from agencies trying to connect the decased in Amanda Park to one of their own missing-persons cases.
Then the non-profit DNA Doe Project called earlier this year. The group’s co-founders, Margaret Press and Colleen Fitzpatrick, were provided a DNA sample by the Grays Harbor County coronor’s office. Shumate said about 20 volunteers worked hundreds of hours to identify the man since his DNA results were made available March 22.
Through the work of the DNA Doe Project, the group was able to come up with a possible match of a man from California. Associated with this possible match were names of relatives. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office were able to contact these possible family members, who believed their missing relative to be the man in the post-mortem pictures the Sheriff’s Office provided.
“We had belief by the family this was the person by the photographs we sent them Monday, but it took some time for the family to locate fingerprints taken when he was a child to send to us,” said Shumate. When they were discovered and arrived, “one of our detectives confirmed it was our unidentified male.”
According to the DNA Doe Project’s case file, the investigation showed that Lyle Stevik is a character in the book You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates, published in 1998. The address the man gave at the Amanda Park motel traced back to a Best Western motel in Meridian, Idaho. It was believed he had arrived by bus from either Port Angeles or Aberdeen and arrived with no luggage. He made no phone calls from the room, nor did he receive any, according to the file.
During the investigation, elaborate facial reconstructions were made and submitted to law enforcement agencies, none resulting in a workable tip as to the man’s identification.
“We had the body, we had the pictures of his face, DNA, dental records, but there was nothing in the system,” said Shumate. “He has never been arrested, let alone convicted of a felony, so there were no fingerprints or DNA in the system.”
This was the DNA Doe Project’s first Doe Fund Me case and was funded in less than 24 hours with contributions from around the world. The group also wanted to thank all 900,000-plus people who have contributed their DNA results to the GEDmatch database. Without them this identification could never have been made, said Shumate.
“Cases like these are heart-breaking,” said Case. “During those hundreds of hours there wasn’t one where we didn’t all think of the family he left behind. They are what kept us going.”
DNA Doe Project, Inc. is a non-profit humanitarian initiative to help identify Jane and John Does and return them to their families. They act as a portal for agencies, donors and volunteers to work together to bring closure to the unnamed dead.
“We are thankful for all involved who helped finally solve this 16½-year mystery,” said Shumate. “The family was of course distraught because they had believed the family member was still alive to only have it turn out not to be the case. But I am happy for the family as much as I can be they were able to find closure and bring a loved one home.”