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Skull matched with name

The skeletal remains of a man who shot himself in a wooded area between Oak Harbor and Coupeville about 12 years ago have finally been identified.

Daniel Joseph Macinnis, a former petty officer second class in the Navy, disappeared from an Oak Harbor home he shared with a roommate around Christmas of 1991. Macinnis, who was 26 years old at the time, was upset that he’d been dishonorably discharged from the Navy.

Island County Coroner Robert Bishop positively identified the remains as those of Macinnis Monday night. He has already notified the man’s family members, who live in Minnesota.

“He was a great guy,” Troy Nelson, Macinnis’ former roommate, said. Nelson helped to make the connection between the remains and Macinnis this week. “He was the life-of-the-party-kind-of-guy. Great sense of humor. You would have never known he was depressed.”

Tuesday, Bishop was ecstatic that Macinnis will finally be laid to rest. He said the mystery has haunted him since a mushroom hunter found a skull and a few scattered bones Nov. 7, 1996, in a woods between Libbey and Sherman roads.

“Monday was my best day in office,” he said. “That’s been bothering me for seven years. I knew all along there had to be a family out there.”

Bishop has followed many leads in trying to identify the skeleton over the years, but they all went nowhere. He even fielded calls from psychics and folks who claim the woods where the body was found is haunted. The body became affectionately known as “Bob” around the office.

Bishop said he never gave up on the case. In fact, the skull is currently with a forensic specialist who was going to reconstruct Macinnis’ face from the bones.

Nelson, an Oak Harbor resident, said the pieces of the mystery started coming together when he was talking to a friend whose wife just happened to have discovered the remains. The woman remembered what clothing was found with the body, which matched Macinnis’ clothing. Nelson said he also knew Macinnis’ abandoned car was found in the same area in 1992.

After mulling over the apparent connection, Nelson contacted the Sheriff’s Office and was referred to the coroner. Monday, he brought a snap shot of Macinnis to the coroner’s office.

Bishop explained that he enhanced the photo and was able to match Macinnis’ gum line to the skull’s. Also, the glasses Macinnis was wearing in the photo matched the ones found at the scene.

With this information, Bishop started calling Macinnis families in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. About halfway through the list, he found the parents of Daniel Macinnis. The final identification was made, Bishop said, when the parents told him that Daniel had broken his jaw in a bar fight in Taiwan.

The skull’s jaw had been broken and was repaired with metal plates.

Bishop said all that he had assumed about the man over the years turned out to be true. He guessed that the mystery man had been in the Navy because he had glasses made by a company that supplied the military. He guessed the man lived a rough-and-tumble life.

Nelson said he last saw his friend and roommate just before Christmas. Macinnis told him he was going to a concert, but he never came back. According to Nelson, Macinnis’ girlfriend at the time tried to report his disappearance to the Sheriff’s Office, but law enforcement wouldn’t make a missing-persons report since the woman wasn’t a family member.

Nelson said Macinnis was an ejection seat specialist with VAQ-141. They went to the first Gulf War together. Macinnis received many ribbons and medals, including a Navy achievement medal. “He was pretty highly decorated,” Nelson said.

Nelson said Macinnis “got in some sort of trouble” and was discharged from the military. It was very upsetting to Macinnis, who had been in the service about seven years and planned to stay in until retirement.

Nelson said his friend often talked about moving to the Philippines, so he assumed Macinnis moved there when he disappeared.

Bishop said Macinnis spoke to his parents on Christmas Eve before he disappeared. They asked him to come home or at least stay in touch, but he resisted. “He said he didn’t want to have to check in,” Bishop said.

It was the last time anyone ever heard from Macinnis. Bishop said the young man died from a self-inflicted “inter-oral handgun wound.”

Nelson said he’s kept his friend’s dog tags, ribbons and medals over the year and plans to return them to the Macinnis family. He spoke to Macinnis’ parents Monday night.

“They were really upset,” he said, “but they were glad to have closure.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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