KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Human remains found in a golf bag along Douglas Lake in 2019 have been identified, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Monday. The remains are part of an ongoing homicide investigation.
The remains were identified as Earl Joseph Pizzoferrato, of Knoxville. His date of birth was July 29, 1991. The TBI says he was identified with assistance from DNA Doe Project.
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Pizzoferrato’s remains were found in a 2008 edition Thompson Cigar Company “Match Play” golf bag on the shore of Douglas Lake on March 10, 2019. The TBI and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office shared that the victim was wearing a black “Walking Dead” t-shirt and a leather belt stamped with the name “Gerald.”
Investigators were unable to determine John Doe’s race, age or how long he had been dead. After exhausting all leads, the TBI brought the case to investigative genetic genealogists with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project in 2020.
“Early on in the research, we were able to identify one set of his grandparents rather quickly,” said team member Eric Hendershott. “However, identifying his other set of grandparents took almost another year.”
According to the release from the DNA Doe Project, the case was complicated by the fact Pizzoferrato had been adopted.
An obituary led to a number of DNA matches that helped investigators identify both of his biological parents. However, the obituary did not mention the biological parents had any children, so the team believed Pizzoferrato may have been adopted.
A biological relative later confirmed that all of the children in the family, including Pizzoferrato, had been placed for adoption and provided key information that helped resolve the case.
“Hopefully, we are able to bring some sort of closure to the family,” Hendershott said.