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John Doe found in Orange County 25 years ago is identified

Human remains discovered in a remote part of Orange County 25 years ago were recently identified as a man who went missing at the time in Los Angeles County.

Donald Raymond Loar, 54, was last seen in the city of Bellflower and was reported missing in February 1998, investigators announced Tuesday in a news release after his remains were positively identified.

But it's unclear how he wound up in southeastern Orange County later that year. A research biologist for the ranch and habitat reserve Rancho Mission Viejo Company found human remains on Aug. 29, 1998, and notified the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Investigators who arrived at the scene did not immediately discover any signs of foul play, the news release said. The next day, they returned to the site to conduct a wider search of the area, but did not find any additional evidence.

Outside sources called in by coroner's and homicide investigators determined that the remains belonged to a Caucasian or Latino man, over 40 years old, who was 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8, according to the Sheriff's Department.

In September of the same year, investigators found what they believed was a shallow grave near where the human remains were first found. In the same general area, they found additional human remains and clothing. Homicide investigators gathered the evidence but were unable to identify the man, the news release said.

There was no development in the case for decades.

In January 2023, Orange County sheriff's investigators working with the California Department of Justice Laboratory in Richmond, Calif., submitted forensic samples to Othram Laboratories in Texas.

The following month, Othram provided a genetic profile to help identify the man. Investigators said they started to use publicly accessible genetic databases available to law enforcement as part of their case.

Several months later, investigators found a tentative match in Loar, who was last seen wearing clothing similar to the pieces found near the remains of the John Doe back in 1998, Orange County sheriff's officials said.

By December 2023, Orange County investigators had met with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to get more information about Loar's case and his disappearance. Investigators also met with his family and took a sample of their DNA.

The California Department of Justice confirmed on Jan. 24 that the John Doe was Loar, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Investigators are looking into what led to his death.

Anyone with information can call the Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS or reach them through crimestoppers.org.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.