Article Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2021

This past December, a routine storm drain clearing led to an inter-departmental collaboration to identify the remains of a missing local man. 

On Dec. 8, 2020, Sacramento County Department of Water Resources (DWR) employees were clearing a storm drain near Gordon Drive in Sacramento. While unclogging their vacuum machine, the crew manually pulled what was thought to be a stick out of the muck that clogged the machine only to find a shoe attached.  It turned out to be a human leg bone and foot. DWR crews stopped work and notified the Sheriff’s Department.

“Water Resources works regularly with law enforcement. Our staff teams up with deputies throughout the year as we clean up drainage culverts and water pipes because we run into homeless camps. We ask for the deputies’ assistance to make sure nobody is harmed by our machines. So when our crews came across human remains, while shaken up by their discovery, they kept their cool and knew to call the Sheriff’s Office for assistance.”

Water Resources Director, Michael Peterson

When Sheriff’s Office detectives responded to the scene, they discovered what appeared to be an additional bone in the storm drain. Detectives contacted the Sacramento Coroner’s Office to assist with further evaluation of the remains.  


Deputies and a Forensic Pathologist from the Coroner’s Office responded to the scene. The leg bone and an additional bone found in the storm drain were determined to be human. Coroner personnel also searched a second area of the storm drain and discovered even more bones. The bones were retrieved by Coroner personnel and were found to be an almost complete human skeleton. 

In addition to the skeletal remains, a debit type card with no name printed on it was also recovered. The debit card company was contacted by the Sheriff’s Office and it was learned that the card belonged to a male subject that had been reported missing. The male subject was last seen in November of 2018. 

After seeing news reports of remains being found in the area of Stockton Blvd and Gordon Drive, the family of the missing male contacted the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office to see if the bones found in the storm drain could belong to their missing relative. 

The brother and daughter of the missing person provided DNA samples to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. The Coroner’s Office ran the DNA samples provided by the family and a sample from the remains using their ANDE Rapid DNA instrument. The Coroner’s office was able to confirm that the remains belong to the missing male subject, and this case came to a close. 

“While my team often works with the Sheriff’s Office, we don’t usually work with Water Resources, so this was a unique experience for us. This was a great example of County employees, that don’t usually work together, coming together to identify this local man and bring some closure to his family.” 

Kim Gin, Sacramento County Coroner

The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office has 73 active “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” cases dating back to 1975, and they need your help to identify them. If you recognize the description of someone on this site that could lead to an identification, please contact the Coroner’s office. ​​