Content Warning: Some might find this case upsetting, though I tried to make it as non-graphic and respectful as I could. There is talk of human remains.
Wagon Mound is a small village in Mora County, New Mexico. Its population, as of 2018, was 285 people. Traders and travelers historically came through Wagon Mound on the Santa Fe trail, and it became a landmark for people passing through. The “mound” also looked to people like a covered wagon, which is partially how it got its name. The village itself is only one square mile.
Wagon Mound is located near Coyote Creek State Park, Fort Union National Monument, and the Cibola National Forest.
Several weird events have happened near Wagon Mound, especially since it’s such a small and remote area. There was the White Massacre in 1849, and the Mound Massacre in 1850. Other weird happenings include a train accident that left a mystery man called “Happy Jack” dead and without an identity in 1913, and several deceased people have been found in Wagon Mound since under rather weird circumstances.
Many Jane or John Does have nicknames, like Orange Socks or Albuquerque Jane Doe, named after distinct features of their remains or where they were found. This deceased man does not have one as far as I’m aware, so I will call him Mora County John Doe. He’s gotten almost no attention from the true crime community, which is weird because his case seems like it should be solvable (if there are write-ups on him, I have never seen one).
Mora County John Doe, or Unidentified Person 13854 on NAMUS, was found by a hunter on April 13th, 2015. His bones were scattered through the area, on top of the soil. Not all parts of his skeleton were recovered, but he did have quite a few belongings with him, and the unnamed medical examiner did an awesome job of investigating this case.
The medical examiner wrote:
“No patterned damage indicative of trauma on the remains, although his remains are quite incomplete. There was significant breakage, but this is consistent with trampling damage by large mammals, and there were cowpies all over the scene. His bone is heavily weathered in some areas, but also still retains a good amount of collagen in others, and there was a considerable amount of desiccated soft tissue still present on many of the bones surfaces. His remains show evidence of considerable scavenging by large carnivores, and although PMI is problematic in cases of surface scatter and weathering, I’d put him at no less than 6 months but probably no more than 2 years since death. Also, a blue fiber was entwined in the dried ligament of his knee, consistent with either the chewed underwear or the shorts that were found in association with the remains.”
John Doe was estimated to have died between April 2013 and November 2014. The ME estimated that John Doe was a white male between 5’6 and 5’10. The ME was unable to estimate his weight. His age was estimated to be between 35 and 44, but possibly as young as 25. He possibly had a prominent nose, a smaller than average cranium, and possibly had allergies or nasal or sinus problems.
John Doe seemed to be well-prepared for the sometimes unpredictable weather of New Mexico. He had with him normal but expensive hiking gear and high-end sports sunglasses. He also carried a red sleeping bag, deodorant, a compact mirror, a garbage bag, and a bag with extra clothing including a green plaid jacket and a red long sleeve shirt, as well as a grey t-shirt and socks. Overall, the ME got the impression that John Doe was an experienced outdoorsman from the area. His expensive outdoors gear- a Kuhl Kontendr sweater, Merrell Vibram shoes, and field pants that converted into shorts, gave ME the idea that John Doe was probably not homeless. However, he did not have keys, identification, or a phone near his remains. He was also carrying a belt to be used possibly as a strap for his handheld carpenter bag, which the ME felt was inconsistent with his other belongings.
John Doe did not carry any cooking tools or any other camping gear with him, though he had extra clothes, a flashlight, and a small radio with him. He carried a compact mirror, possibly to be used in case of emergency (which was open, possibly used for just such an emergency), and a sleeping bag. The ME noted that the sleeping bag isn’t typically the kind that hikers carry with them, as it wasn’t very compact and was heavier than sleeping bags hikers wear for longer journeys. The ME suggested that possibly John Doe was near the area working.
Weirdest of all, John Doe had two very unique possessions- a shirt with the Soil Conservation Service patch on it, and a Ropes That Rescue hat. The medical examiner found that at the time, only staff from Ropes That Rescue, based in Sedona, AZ, had hats and other logo’d gear on. Frustratingly, I couldn’t find a picture of the cap that matches this description- most pictures of the folks of Ropes That Rescue are wearing hardhats, or caps with sports logos instead. The Soil Conservation Service was renamed the National Resources Conservation Service in 1994, so the patch was pre-1994.
|Soil Conservation Patch|
The Soil Conservation Service patch might look something like this.
The Medical Examiner’s report includes a mention of a pen found in John Doe’s bag, which has a logo from the 1st Community State Bank in Las Vegas, NM. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a logo for that bank because it’s now owned by US Bank. I later found that per the forensic pathologist’s report, this was actually the Community 1st Bank of Las Vegas. There are four branches in New Mexico, and one of them is in Mora, New Mexico, which is about 1.5 hour’s drive from where John Doe was found.
|Ropes That Rescue logo|
|Kontendr shirt example|
|Merrell Vibram shoe examples|
As for any injuries, it couldn’t be determined whether John Doe had been injured before his death. His skeleton was incomplete, but a fracture was found on his left fibula, which could have happened before death after an accidental injury, or after death, due to animals being near the scene.
The only exclusion on NAMUS for Mora County John Doe is Arden Bogart. John Doe is still waiting to be identified and brought home to his family.
I found some new information about John Doe by requesting the full reports from OMI. You can view them here: OMI Reports
* John Doe had skeletal indications of European descent, *but also* had skeletal traits of someone with Native American and Southwestern Hispanic descent. The FP noted that he most likely looked more caucasian than Hispanic or Native American. Many, many people in New Mexico are a mix of white, Native, and Hispanic descent, so I wonder if this means he was originally from New Mexico or the surrounding area.
* A forensic anthropologist who reviewed John Doe’s case, Kerriann Marden, believed that John Doe was most likely between 35 – 45 years old, and between 5’4 and 5’10 tall.
* The forensic pathologist states that John Doe had a “hyper-masculine” facial features, and a sturdy build. He was also “beetle-browed” and had a prominent nose.
* John Doe did not have any crowns on his teeth- but he did have a root canal performed on Tooth #14.
* John Doe had a congenital sacralization of the 5th lumbar vertebra, which means that his spine had fused abnormally before birth, but it was “subclinical,” so he may not have known that it existed.
* John Doe had a large femoral head, and an above-average femoral breadth, which were bigger than average for men, but his femoral circumference at mid shaft was much smaller than an average man’s. I interpret this to mean that the top end of his femur, attaching to the hip, was larger than average, but the middle of his femur was smaller than average for men. His femur was also shorter than average for white and black men, which might make sense with Hispanic ancestry.
* The original ME or pathologist had thought that John Doe was female- many of the bones are missing, maybe that’s why?- but the forensic anthrolopologist found dark hairs with the sternum, indicating that John Doe was indeed male, among other indicators.
* John Doe was wearing shorts when found, but he did have the full-leg extensions with him (in his bag?). The FP thought this might indicate a death between late summer to early fall, or early to late spring, especially since he also carried several layers of clothing with him. He did not have any clothing items to indicate that he was prepared for winter weather.
* The pen found with John Doe is actually from Community 1st Bank of Las Vegas. There are 4 branches, and one is located in Mora, New Mexico, about an 1 – 1.5 hour drive from where John Doe was found.
If you can help, please call:
Wendy Honeyfield, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner: (505) 272-3053
Dustin Driscoll, NAMUS specialist: email@example.com or (817) 240-4106
ME Case Number: 2015-01891