The remains of James Everett of Cohocton, NY were discovered inside an old railroad shed, but he was known as John Doe until now.
ROSEMOUNT, Minn. — A family half a country away from Minnesota can move on with their search for healing and closure after authorities identified a body that had gone without a name for nearly eight years.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office says the man whose remains were found inside a railroad utility shed in Rosemount on Sept. 29, 2014 is James Everett of Cohocton, New York. Everett was 48 years old at the time of his death. His wife, who was in Minnesota for the announcement of his identification Wednesday, says James was an intelligent man, computer geek, accomplished cook, self-taught acoustic guitar player and sports fan. She says he left for a business trip in the fall of 2013 and never came home.
But in the time that passed since his discovery that September day, Everett was known only as “John Doe,” a man whose past was nothing more than a mystery.
Rosemount Police Chief Mikael Dahlstrom says it was a Union Pacific employee who discovered the human remains inside a decommissioned utility shed by railroad tracks on the 14500 block of Burma Ave. Investigators called to the scene couldn’t find a wallet or driver’s license to identify the man, but newspapers and receipts in the shed – suspected of being used as temporary shelter – suggested the man had died sometime in the fall of 2013.
The remains suggested he was a man between 30 and 50 years old with long brown hair, approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and Rosemount Police all issued alerts asking for help in identifying the man, but nothing materialized.
Here is a rough timeline of the investigation that followed:
- 2015 – Authorities entered a sample of John Doe’s DNA profile into a national database, and FBI specialists performed a facial reconstruction of the unknown man, whose likeness was then shared with the public. Still, no solid leads were developed. At that point the case had grown cold.
- 2017 – After more than 570 leads had been chased down with no result, the community gathered to hold a funeral and bury the remains of a man no one knew on a plot in Inver Grove Heights.
- 2019 – Cold case investigators began working with Parabon Nanolabs, a company that provides DNA phenotyping services for law enforcement organizations.
- 2022 – After hundreds of hours of searching DNA specialists located a potential match, a man who had been living in upstate New York. Investigators contacted the family of James Everett, collected a number of DNA samples and confirmed that indeed, it was his remains found inside the old railroad shed nearly eight years earlier.
While technology played a large part in closing this cold case, so did the diligence and compassion of police investigators and medical examiner’s personnel.
“Our search to identify this man was important,” said Shawn Wilson, department administrator for the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, who was part of the effort to identify Everett. “We all had questions, and we couldn’t begin to tell his story until we knew his name. But the story of James Raymond Everett is not ours to tell. It is his family’s, and they now have an ending.”
James’ wife says despite continuous roadblocks and the passage of time, his family never stopped searching for him or gave up hope.
“We were always on the lookout for him when out and about and frequently did a lot of online searching for any indication of activity or other clues as to his whereabouts,” Patricia Everett said. “Although this has not been the expected nor desired outcome in our search for him, we are all grateful and blessed to at least have this opportunity for closure, which many are not as fortunate to get.”
Below is a full statement released by Patricia Everett
On behalf of myself, Jim’s family, friends, and former co-workers, we wish to extend our deepest gratitude to Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, Rosemount Police Department, especially the investigation team, as well as the public media and various other agencies that have invested so much of their time, energy, knowledge, persistence, and compassion with the investigation and identification of my husband James Everett.
We would also like to thank you, the residents of Rosemount, for your concern and compassion, your willingness to support and be there for a complete stranger by actively sharing information and for attending Jim’s funeral service on June 30, 2017, and for those distant family members who submitted DNA for genealogy research as without them, he would never have been identified. We are incredibly grateful that he was not alone. Please be assured that we, especially me, never gave up searching. We were always on the lookout for him when out and about and frequently did a lot of online searching for any indication of activity or other clues as to his whereabouts. Several of us had a few of what we believed were sightings over the past eight years in places that he frequented prior to his sudden departure. The last being last summer of 2021 when I was certain I had seen him in the Penfield suburb of Rochester, New York. Knowing what I know now, this was obviously not Jim as he was discovered in Rosemount in September of 2014.
Jim was scheduled to go on a work trip in September of 2013, but I later found out that he did not attend this trip. For unknown reasons, he left home leaving keys in the mailbox and never returned. He was reported missing and was located a few weeks later at a rest stop by a Montana State Trooper so the missing person’s report was closed. He indicated to the trooper that he had problems at work and had quit and was just driving. I thought he may have reinvented his life and was living elsewhere, until I was visited by a police officer at my home inquiring about Jim.
I’d like to share a few things about Jim, so you know who he was as a person. Jim was a highly intelligent individual with a well-rounded collection of skills and various talents. He was a true computer geek since his high school days, to the point of training the teacher for our school’s first computer class offered in 1984 with the arrival of Apple computers and DOS based programs. That passion for technology flourished over the years and became his life’s work.
He was an accomplished cook and baker with significant experience in both short order and fine dining throughout the city of Rochester, New York. He relished the challenge of creating dishes and baking cakes for weddings, baby showers, birthdays, and so on. His creations were always elaborate and well-engineered.
He was a self-taught acoustic guitar player and had an amazing voice. Never a time goes by when I hear ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ by Bob Seger that I don’t immediately think of Jim, as that was the song he sang and played for me at our wedding reception. He had everyone in tears by the time he was finished.
Jim was forever a fan of Denver Broncos football and Buffalo Sabres hockey, but he could instantly recite stats for pretty much any player of any team, whether for football, hockey, baseball, basketball, World Cup soccer, and even golf. That skill made him a very valuable asset for any trivia team.
Though he had very little family left, he was blessed with so many friends, acquaintances, and co-workers and loved and now missed by all. Although this has not been the expected nor desired outcome in our search for him, we are all grateful and blessed to at least have this opportunity for closure, in which many are not as fortunate to get. My heart truly goes out to those folks. Grief is not easy; there are no guidelines. It is different for each individual. The rollercoaster of emotions has definitely been a rough ride these past several months. I am thankful for the support of our family, friends, and co-workers. I’m also very thankful and blessed with everything that all of you here in Hennepin and Dakota counties have done. Thank you for caring about Jim and for letting me share a bit about him with you. For those who are missing a loved one, I hope this story provides hope that your loved one may also be found.
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