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Ramapo IGG Helps Identify John Doe from 2011 Arizona Cold Case

Students of the Ramapo College of New Jersey Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) Center have once again successfully uncovered the identity of “Beaver Creek John Doe,” now known to be Mr. David Emil Jacobsen, through DNA testing and investigative genetic genealogy. 

In 2011, the deceased body of a male subject was discovered near a hiking area in Beaver Creek, Yavapai County, Arizona. This decedent had no wallet or identification on his person to aid with his identification, which hampered the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office investigation.  More than 12 years passed while hoping for a match through NamUs or the Cogent Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which both yielded unsuccessful results to help identify Beaver Creek John Doe.

Enter the Ramapo College Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center.

Ramapo IGG partnered with the YCSO to provide free case support. A blood blot card for John Doe was sent to Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City Utah for DNA extraction, whole genome sequencing, and bioinformatics. Intermountain successfully generated a SNP profile which was uploaded to the DNA databases GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA. 

David Emil Jacobsen (photo courtesy of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office)

Students in the Ramapo College Investigative Genetic Genealogy Certificate Program discovered the most likely candidate to be David Emil Jacobsen. The discovery of a candidate was brought about by the combination of family tree research and the presence of unique circumstantial details observed by the students. “The case was challenging due to recent immigration on both sides of John Doe’s family trees,” said Cairenn Binder, assistant director of the Ramapo College IGG Center. 

Mr. Jacobsen’s identity was confirmed by the Yavapai County Medical Examiner’s Office through MtDNA comparison from a DNA sample from one of Mr. Jacobsen’s siblings. Mr. Jacobson died of natural causes due to heart complications.

“The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office appreciates the efforts of Ramapo College and their students’ diligent work in this endeavor. We hope to partner with them on other cases in the future,” said Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes.

The Jacobsen family is very grateful to everyone for their efforts to bring closure to this painful experience.

For more information about Ramapo College and the IGG Center, visit