A homeless man in his 40s who was found dead in his sleeping bag near Metson Lake in Golden Gate Park in 2021 has been positively ID'd through DNA and forensic genealogy.
SFist reported on the death of a man named Kurt, whom area residents knew to be a "local terror," back in June 2021. A tipster told us that he had lived in and around that area of the park for years, and while he had been friendly in years past, he developed some sort of hatred for dogs — and was known to verbally and physically attack people, especially women, walking dogs in the area.
As a dogwalker in the park named Raina told us "he escalated to charging us on the trails and kicking the dogs," and she even shot video of him "jumping out of the bushes — armed — and threatening to kill me and my pack."
She also mentioned an incident in which he threw a rock through the window of her van, "shattering it and showering the animals in glass." And he was allegedly arrested in 2019 for throwing coffee on a woman, her dog, and her stroller.
"I’m one of about a dozen women with dogs that he’s attacked over the years. I was not a fan of the man," Raina said.
Now, as KPIX reports, the SFPD has positively identified the man, who was listed as a John Doe after his body was found, already decomposing, by a Rec & Parks landscaper almost two years ago.
The police worked with DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit investigative genealogy research outfit that says on its website has "become a go-to organization for law enforcement agencies and medical examiners across North America, helping them solve their most intractable cases."
The DNA Doe Project said it quickly landed on a match for the man's DNA with first cousin on his maternal side. This led to the narrowing down of his position on the family tree, and a determination that he was one of six siblings, two of whom were male.
The nonprofit concluded that the man who had been living in Golden Gate Park, who clearly despised dogs, was Kurt Jerome Aken. He was estimated to be around 45 years old — Raina, the dogwalker, had pegged his age around 62.
"Like many people experiencing homelessness, Kurt was disconnected from his family," the DNA Doe Project says.
Aken carried no identification and no one came to claim his remains. He died sometime around late May or early June 2021, and his body was discovered some weeks later.
"This case was unusual in two important ways — first, that the agency brought the DNA Doe Project in to help so soon after the John Doe's remains were discovered," said team leader Rhonda Kevorkian, speaking to KPIX. "And second, that we had a DNA match from such a close relative. These two factors allowed us to confidently identify Mr. Aken quickly."
Photo: Adam S./Yelp