Man found in golf bag at Douglas Lake in 2019 identified as Earl Pizzoferrato


The DNA Doe Project and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have identified a homicide victim found on the shore of Douglas Lake in 2019 as Earl Pizzoferrato of Knoxville.

Dandridge, TN – On March 10, 2019 a homeowner walking the shoreline of Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee reported to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office a suspicious bag on the lakeshore. Jefferson County deputies determined the bag, a golf bag, contained human remains and requested the assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Investigators were unable to determine the John Doe’s race, age, or even how long he had been dead. After exhausting all leads, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation brought the case to the DNA Doe Project in 2020, hopeful that the use of investigative genetic genealogy could provide an ID.

Once a workable DNA profile was developed, the DNA Doe Project’s talented team of investigative genetic genealogists began tracing the John Doe’s relatives.

“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.”

The genealogy in this case was complicated by the fact that Earl Pizzoferrato had been adopted. The team came across an obituary that connected a number of DNA matches, which helped identify both of Earl’s biological parents. But no children were mentioned in the obituary, so the team hypothesized that this man may have been adopted. A biological relative later confirmed that all of the children in the family had been placed for adoption, and they provided key information that helped resolve this case. 

“Hopefully, we are able to bring some sort of closure to the family,” Hendershott said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is pursuing leads in this ongoing homicide investigation. If you have any information, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the groups and individuals who helped identify Earl Pizzoferrato: the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; HudsonAlpha Discovery for extraction and sequencing of DNA; Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations for bioinformatics; GEDmatch Pro and FTDNA for providing their databases; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home.

About the DNA Doe Project

The DNA Doe Project, Inc. is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to identify John and Jane Does and return them to their families. The genealogy research is pro bono, but the organization relies on donations to fund lab costs when agencies cannot afford them. To date DDP has made over 95 identifications. Discover more at

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