‘Stilly Doe’ man identified 42 years after being found in Stillaguamish River

EVERETT, Wash. -- More than 40 years after a man’s remains were found in the Stillaguamish River, forensic investigators announced they had finally identified him.

For decades, that person was known only as “Stilly Doe,” yet cutting-edge science has finally managed to give that man a name: Othaniel Philip Ames.

“It’s like he’s come home,” said Margaret Ames, Othaniel’s great-niece.

In the course of just a few weeks, 42 years of persistent “what-ifs” and pressing questions have suddenly been resolved for the Ames family.

“I wondered over the years what happened to him. I hope he didn’t suffer. It’s hard to know,” Margaret said.

At a news conference announcing Ames’ identification, Margaret held a box that contained her great-uncle’s remains.

Using updated DNA techniques and genetic testing, forensic investigators said they were able to hone in on great, great, great grandparents with long-lost family here in Washington state.

Then they started to contact random members of the Ames family.

“It’s very gratifying to get to the answer to the puzzle when it’s that large of a puzzle,” said Deb Scott, a forensic investigator.

From there, descendants within the Ames family suddenly remembered Othaniel, who dropped out of sight 42 years ago.

He was last seen in 1980, heading out on a road trip. Family members described Othaniel as reclusive and withdrawn, so they assumed he simply decided not to come back home.

Investigators believe he likely had a heart attack and died as he walked by the Stillaguamish River.

His unidentified remains were discovered on July 23, 1980.

Even after his bones were identified so many years later, the Ames family was still in store for a shock.

That’s because they learned it was a family friend who had actually found his body back in 1980.

Without any identification, and no concrete proof that Othaniel was even missing, nobody put “two and two” together until this month.

“I grabbed myself and I thought, ‘Oh my god, Spencer, he was a teenager. He’s now in his 50s,’” said Margaret, referring to the family friend who had unknowingly found Othaniel’s remains in 1980.

Othaniel was 82 when he died.

A long life, for sure — with one mystifying legacy.

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