Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File 
This January 2020 photo shows the Seawalk in front of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Labor on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File This January 2020 photo shows the Seawalk in front of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Labor on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020.

Authorities ID remains found near Seawalk

Police say foot belonged to man who went missing in 2017.

This story has been updated to include new information.

Nearly two years after a human foot and a shoe washed up near Juneau’s Seawalk, authorities have identified the remains, a Juneau Police Department spokesperson announced.

[Police find human remains near downtown Seawalk]

The remains were identified by Alaska Crime Lab as belonging to James Christopher Cole, according to Lt. Krag Campbell. Cole went missing at age 50 in December 2017 after a small boat capsized near Aurora Harbor. Cole’s next of kin has been notified, Campbell said.

Five people and a dog were reportedly aboard the boat when it capsized at approximately 9 p.m., Campbell said. Both Cole and 48-year-old Sheridan Scott Stringer were not located following the wreck. Three people were recovered from the water and treated at the hospital at the time. A dog was also recovered, the Empire previously reported.

A shoe and a foot, now identified as Cole’s, were found near the Seawalk in early January 2020. At the time, officers were unable to identify the remains, which appeared to have been outside “for a long time,” according to a news release issued at the time the remains were found. The shoe likely acted both to protect the remains from the actions of scavengers as well as to buoy the remains to the surface when sufficient material from the body had been removed, a relatively common phenomena in the region.

The shoe and remains were sent to the Alaska Crime Lab, where technicians were able to identify the Cole’s DNA. The Juneau Police Department frequently works with the larger Department of Public Safety to autopsy remains in cases where the cause of death is unknown or suspicious. The DPS recently identified a homicide victim who likely died nearly half a century ago and was found on an island near Anchorage. The victim’s DNA had to be compared against possible relatives to determine their identity.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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