‘John Clinton Doe’ remains found in 1995 identified by Rock Co. authorities, but questions remain about death

Sheriff: Investigation to now shift focus to how man died

JANESVILLE, Wis. — For nearly 30 years, the identity of “John Clinton Doe” — the remains of a young man found in a remote wooded area along Turtle Creek in Clinton — has been a mystery. On Tuesday, authorities were finally able to identify the man as Carl J. Isaacs, Jr.

“I’m kinda sad to have to get together and discuss the untimely death of a young individual in our community, but I am glad to finally be able to bring a little bit of resolution to the individual’s identity,” Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson said Tuesday.

The investigation will now shift from identification to determining how he died, Knudson announced. He declined to share details about the family or why he said Isaacs was never reported missing and cited the ongoing investigation.

“We’re really looking to flesh out exactly who he was and how he found himself in that particular location,” he said. “That’s where we’re really looking to the community to help provide some of those details for us.”

The announcement comes after the DNA Doe Project announced the case was solved in 2019 but withheld the name at the request of authorities in Rock County. On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office publicly identified the remains as belonging to Isaacs, who they say had walked away from the Walworth County jail in April 1995.

The remains were found on November 11, 1995, in a rural part of Rock County, which investigators said contributed to the mystery: any person reaching the area would typically need some kind of transportation.

Initial investigations in part focused on autopsy and dental findings, as well as a distinctive concert T-shirt and chrome pendant of a goat head with horns — both found at the scene.

“None of those initial investigations produced identification,” Knudson said. “We had to continue with a very lengthy investigation from that point on, that really covered decades looking into [Department of Transportation] records and area yearbooks. One of the rather interesting investigative methods that they used here which was reported on years ago was that Smithsonian Isotopic Analysis. Based on the chemical composition of some of the bones, they were able to determine that they felt this person would have been from the Midwest area.”

FROM 2016: Image of what 20-year-old cold case John Doe may have looked like released

The sheriff’s office says the identification was made after two weeks of investigative genetic genealogy analysis, but confirmation took until this year when DNA was compared to a close family member by the University of North Texas School of Biological Science Forensic Unit.

The case was referred to the DNA Doe Project in 2018 by private investigator Jack Friess of Stevens Point.

Man who found body reacts to announcement

Among those who still have questions about the case is Gary Gilbank, who first found the body while hunting on his parents’ property with his nephews. He has previously shared his story with News 3 Now, describing how he found a bag of belongings next to a clothed skeleton and alerted police.

“I walked over to see what I was looking at, and there next to a garbage bag of his belongings was a clothed skeleton,” he recalled. “I remember kneeling down and picking up the shirt and there was a skull, completely decomposed.”

Gilbank now owns the property where he found Isaac’s remains. While questions remain, he’s glad to know there’s some sense of closure.

“I guess I’m glad that they finally identified the remains; a lot for the family of John Doe, kinda put that to rest,” he said. “I was hoping for a little more information today.”

Photojournalist Jim Rader contributed to this story.