On July 8, 1957, an unidentified deceased man was found floating face down in Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas. The nearest address to his location was the 1200 block of Commerce Street. The medical examiner estimated that Buffalo Bayou Doe died three days prior to being pulled out of the waterway, but the body was too decomposed for an autopsy. Cause of death is unknown.
The man's estimated age is between twenty-five and forty years old. The only item with possible identification features were the man's dentures, which had EJC-810-56 imprinted on them. Law enforcement has suggested the EJC might be initials and 810-56 represents the date of August 10, 1956.
Buffalo Bayou Doe was initially identified as a man named Nolan Pruitt. There's no further explanation about why the Buffalo Bayou John Doe was thought to be Mr. Pruitt, and online searches for "Nolan Pruitt" and "1957" resulted in no additional information. At this time, the police and medical examiner’s office still consider Buffalo Bayou Doe an unidentified decedent.
Buffalo Bayou Doe was found with two combs in his pocket. According to the Harris County Medical Examiner, the unidentified decedent was wearing:
- Green/brown striped long-sleeved sport shirt with one pocket on the left upper chest
- Khaki pants
- Brown woven belt with a cowboy-style buckle
- White cotton socks
- Brown shoes fastened with a strap and a buckle (Size 9A)
Was it possible the man was celebrating the Fourth of July and was either thrown or fell into the waterway? The postmortem interval (PMI) estimated the man had been deceased for three days, but maybe he died in the early morning hours of July 5th, still partying on behalf of America’s 181st birthday. Was he with friends? Out on a date? On his way home, taking the scenic route near Buffalo Bayou?
Science and technology keeps improving. Today, forensic scientists can get DNA from someone just touching an object. And isotope analysis can determine the geographic location or climatic region where someone lived. So, it's possible that Buffalo Bayou Doe and the other 40,000 unidentified decedents in the U.S. might one day be identified and returned to their loved ones.
Buffalo Bayou Doe was buried in Harris County Cemetery #2, plot #5. Although it was known as a pauper’s cemetery, it is historically significant.
If you have any information about this case, please contact Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences at 713-796-6774 or MEOIDUnit@ifs.hctx.net. The Harris County Medical Examiner's Case # for Buffalo Bayou Doe (also known as Harris County Doe) is: ML57-0694.
About Buffalo Bayou John Doe
- Estimated Age: 25-40 years old
- Race: White
- Gender: Male
- Height: 5'5" to 5'7"
- Weight: 135-150 lbs.
- Hair Color: Dark brown to black.
- Eye Color: Unknown
- Distinguishing Marks/Features: No obvious jaw or skull fractures. No marks noted.
- Dentals: Available. Dentures with notation "EJC 810-56."
- Fingerprints: Not available.
- DNA: Not available.
- Houston Chronicle: 'Detective' will exhume bodies in victim identity hunt by Lisa Olsen
- The Oklahoman: Coroners get help to identify old bodies by Joe Stinebaker
- Medical Examiner Harris County: Unidentified Decedent Notice
- NamUs Entry for Buffalo Bayou John Doe
- Harris County Medical Examiner Case # ML57-0694
- Doe Network Case File #2234UMTX
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