MARION COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) — In July of 1989, John Kraicinski walked away from his father’s home on Cherry Street in Galion. It was the last time any of his family members would see the then 33-year-old.
“John had a tendency to just leave for months at a time. He did have some mental illness problems back at that time and he had a tendency to just leave,” said Marion County Sheriff Matt Bayles, explaining the family believed Kraicinski had left to start a new life and never reported him missing.
More than three decades after his disappearance, they’re learning the truth about what happened to their brother and uncle.
Emerging technology and extensive DNA research by a nonprofit forensic genealogy organization revealed Kraicinski was killed shortly after he left home. His remains were pulled from Flat Run Creek in rural Marion County the same month he disappeared. The body, which had significantly decomposed, could not be immediately identified. A coroner ruled the death a homicide, pointing to evidence of suffocation and a possible gunshot or arrow wound.
“A very basic investigative thing on a homicide, or any crime actually, is to identify the victim and retrace their steps. Where’d they come from? Who were they with?” said Sheriff Bayles.
The investigation ran cold when none of the questions could be answered and the sheriff’s office did not receive a single tip.
In 2017, an Ohio BCI agent carved an updated composite sculpture of the victim, using 3D scans and a 3D printer to recreate a more accurate skull shape. She also ran DNA through BCI databases, but it was not sufficient to find a match.
In June 2019, the Sheriff’s Office and Ohio BCI enlisted the help of the DNA Doe Project. The organization had recently collaborated with the county to successfully identify a woman killed by a convicted serial killer in 2007.
Trained volunteers sent the John Doe’s DNA to the International Commission for Missing Persons in The Hague, Netherlands, then used genome sequencing and ran the results through several databases to find his closest living relatives.
“When an individual takes a DNA test – a ‘23 and Me,’ ‘Ancestry,’ any of the major direct-to-consumer companies, they then can download their raw data and upload to these other 2 sites where we have access,” explained Gabriella Vargas, a genealogist for the DNA Doe Project.
When the organization found a likely name, they conducted more DNA testing with Kraicinski’s family members to positively identify him.
“Without their endeavors we, along with many other families, would never have located our loved one,” Kraicinski’s family said in a statement read by Sheriff Bayles. “Our family members remain hopeful that even after all these years the truth will be revealed.”
During a press conference Tuesday, the sheriff acknowledged identifying a victim is a first step. Now, he’s asking the public for any leads in the investigation.
“I know it’s been 32 years, I know it’s been a long time. People have moved, people have died since then. But if anyone can help us to try to get justice for John, we’d appreciate it,” he said. “If we get some tips, some people that might’ve known John, may have seen John, may have been to a party with John – I don’t care what it is – back in that day… let us know so we can retrace his steps and hopefully bring justice for him.”
Bayles said Kraicinski was found wearing black Adidas tennis shoes, dakota jeans, a red and black striped short-sleeved athletic shirt with a 3-button pocket on the front, and a multicolored knit sweater with diamonds and a zig-zag design.
Anyone with information can report it to the Marion County Sheriff’s Tip Line at 740-375-8477.