San Diego John Doe (September 1981)

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At 5:00am on September 28, 1981, two workers from Big Bear Supermarket at 9905 Mira Mesa Boulevard in San Diego, San Diego County, California noticed a dumpster fire near the store’s loading dock. They contacted emergency services, and while waiting for them to arrive tried to put the fire out. When the flames were finally extinguished, the fire department discovered a badly-burned body.

It’s believed the fire was intentionally set, as a plastic bottle partially filled with gasoline was located nearby.

At the time, the area to the south side of the market was largely vacant lots and industrial buildings, a stark contrast to today, with its apartment buildings, high school and businesses.


An autopsy performed by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office showed no evidence of physical wounds on the body. It was determined the deceased had died the morning he was discovered and that he’d been strangled prior to his body being set on fire.


At the time, John Doe was believed to be White, but it’s now believed he was possibly African-American or mixed race, due to his medium skin tone. He was between 20 and 40 years old, with recent estimates putting his age more toward his mid-30s. He stood between 5’7″ and 5’10”, and while the morgue measured his weight as 106 pounds, he was likely between 125 and 135 pounds while alive. He had curly auburn hair with blond tips, brown eyebrows and brown eyes.

Examination of his teeth showed he’d had dental work done that was consistent with procedures typically conducted in the United States. The medical examiner also determined he had Type-B blood.


1) Willie Reginald Clark, who went missing from Baltimore, Maryland on May 27, 1978.


John Doe’s dentals are available for comparison.

There is currently a $1,000 reward being offered from information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the crime.

Those with information regarding the identity of John Doe are asked to contact the San Diego Police Department directly at 619-531-2000 or its Homicide Unit at 619-531-2293. Tips can also be called into the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office at 858-694-2895 or anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 1-888-580-8477.

Image Credit: NCMEC

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