DNA testing next on human foot found on North Olympic Peninsula beach
By Paige Dickerson, Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Bones and flesh inside a black hiking sneaker found on a Strait of Juan de Fuca beach are the remains of a human foot, Seattle laboratory analysts said Monday.
That makes it similar to five athletic shoe-clad feet found on beaches in British Columbia in the past year.
It was also determined that the foot — like the five in Canada — had come off by itself, discounting the possibility that it might have been cut off.
"It had been disarticulated and not mechanically removed," Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Peregrin said.
"That means that it detached [in the water].
"It doesn't really mean anything else as far as foul play."
But, he added, "it doesn't mean that foul play hasn't happened."
A DNA analysis will be made.
"We will run that against any missing persons and see if it matches anything, and then go from there," said Clallam Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly, who also is the county coroner.
The DNA analysis will take up to eight weeks to complete, then more time will be required to compare the data with missing persons files, Kelly said.
Acting at the request of Kelly and the Clallam sheriff's office, the King County Medical Examiner's Office determined the human origin of the remains.
They were recovered Saturday from a beach at the former Silver King Resort, about 30 miles west of Port Angeles.
The other feet were found about 50 miles away, in and around the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland.
How long on beach?
Peregrin said there is no way to determine where the shoe originated.
"We don't know how long it was on the beach," he said.
"The tides can be completely different if it had been there three months or three weeks."
DNA testing has concluded that one of the five severed feet found in Canada belonged to a depressed man who went missing in early 2007.
Two others belonged to one man, and the remaining one belonged to a woman.
In all six cases, the feet were inside athletic shoes, which authorities say gave them buoyancy in tidal waters.
Peregrin said Monday's lab conclusion that the Clallam foot was naturally detached downplays — but doesn't eliminate — the possibility of foul play.
"If it had been mechanically removed, it would be an indicator that foul play had taken place because human intervention had taken place," he said..
He said if there were some indication that the was cut off, investigators would open a criminal investigation rather than standing by for more clues.
Larger than size 10
Peregrin said the black sneaker was made more for hiking than running.
The shoe, publicly revealed Tuesday afternoon, is an Everest brand hiking-style sneaker, men's size 11. The foot was clad in a Levi's tube sock.
Most of the shoes found on British Columbia beaches were white sneakers in more of an athletic or running style, Peregrin said.
The foot found in Clallam County was a right one, like four of the five found in Canada, he said.
Adding to the Canadian mystery is the discovery of a footless body on an Orcas Island beach in March 2007 — about five months before the first detached foot appeared in Canada.
British Columbia authorities are trying to determine whether there is a link between the body and any of the feet.
British Columbia coroner Jeff Dolan has said there was no evidence that any of the five feet had been severed.
Experts say that when a human body is submerged in the ocean, the arms, legs, hands, feet and head usually come off the body.
Tides can be different'
Neither Peregrin nor Kelly was sure of the shoe's brand.
"Our deputies' top priority was to get the remains to the medical examiner [in Seattle]," Peregrin said.
"So we haven't even dusted off the shoe yet [for fingerprints]."
The Sheriff's Department has been in constant contact with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police since the shoe was found, he said.
"We'll sit down with them sometime soon," Peregrin said, possibly this week.
"They have been very cooperative, and we'll tell them what we have and they'll open up their case files to us."
Although no one is sure if there's a connection between the discoveries in British Columbia and Clallam County, the cooperation is important because of the proximity and number of severed feet that have been found in the area, Peregrin said.
Found by woman
An unidentified woman who was camping at the former Silver King Resort, which now features privately owned campsites, discovered the beached shoe tangled in tidal seaweed and debris on Friday.
The camper poured sand out of it, then left it on the beach.
Then, recalling the British Columbia finds, she returned Saturday with a second camper to examine the shoe more closely.
"Another camper pulled out the sock," said Peregrin.
"When they saw the bones, they knew it was evidence," the undersheriff said.
KOMO-TV identified the second camper as Jim Shay.
The woman called authorities, who confiscated the shoe and its contents as evidence.
On Sunday, they summoned a dog specially trained to sniff out human body parts to scour the beach and nearby woods.
The dog found nothing.
KOMO-TV, a Peninsula Daily News media partner in Seattle, contributed to this report.
Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: August 04. 2008 9:00PM