Michael Schlicht : “Homicide Victim Found on California Trail in 1974 Identified after 49 Years”

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In recent news, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in Aliso Viejo, California, has made a significant breakthrough in a cold case that dates back to 1974. Using the cutting-edge technique of investigative genetic genealogy, officials have finally identified a John Doe who was found dead near a fire road trail almost five decades ago.

The discovery of the victim’s body was made by two individuals who were off-roading on September 14, 1974. Initially, authorities believed that the victim’s death was accidental, caused by alcohol and diazepam intoxication. However, further investigation by Othram Inc. raised suspicions that the victim’s death was, in fact, a homicide.

Despite extensive efforts by law enforcement agencies, the victim’s identity remained a mystery for years. Multiple fingerprint classifications were sent to various agencies, including the Criminal Identification and Investigation Division in Sacramento, the Federal Bureau of Identification, and even Canadian authorities, but no matches were found.

Investigators worked tirelessly to solve the case, but their efforts were fruitless. Finally, in a tragic turn of events, the victim was buried as John Doe at El Toro Memorial Park, in an unlabeled grave.

Years later, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office discovered that several individuals had died in the same manner as the John Doe, all victims of homicides. This revelation led investigators to suspect that the John Doe may have been one of the early victims of Randy Steven Kraft, also known as the “Scorecard Killer.”

Kraft, who is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison, was convicted of killing 16 people in May 1989. However, it is believed that he may have killed at least 10 more victims, although these crimes have not been filed by the Orange County district attorney’s office.

In November 2022, a breakthrough finally occurred in the case. Tissue samples from the John Doe were submitted to Othram Laboratories, where a DNA profile was created. This profile was then uploaded into a genealogy database, allowing investigators to build the John Doe’s family tree.

Through this process, the victim’s grandparents were identified, leading investigators to a granddaughter. She revealed that she had not seen her 17-year-old brother, Michael Schlicht, since April 1974. To confirm the identification, investigators traveled to Kansas City and collected a DNA sample from a potential mother. The results were positive, and officials have now officially identified the victim as Michael Schlicht from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has notified the victim’s family members and is working to mark Schlicht’s gravestone, finally bringing closure to a 49-year-old cold case.

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