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Seattle newspaper photo helps ID ‘Jon Doe’

A man who wandered out of a Seattle park three weeks ago not knowing his name or how he got there has been identified by a newspaper reader as a former English teacher who taught in China.
/ Source: The Associated Press

When he walked out of a Seattle park three weeks ago, the mystery man knew this much about himself: He is fluent in several languages and has traveled to other countries.

But he didn't know his name or how he got to Seattle. He's not sure how he came to spend a few days sleeping under a tree in Discovery Park — the city's largest — or how he emerged a bit dizzy but uninjured July 30.

It didn't take long for the power of the Internet to help solve the mystery Thursday.

A reader contacted The Seattle Times Thursday morning, just hours after the newspaper posted a story and photographs of the mystery Jon Doe on its Web site. David Akast told the newspaper the man is Edward Lighthart, an English teacher he knew in China.

Police have since showed the man his high school yearbook photograph and mentioned the names of people believed to be his parents, but none of that rang a bell, said Seattle detective Tina Drain.

"It appears to be him, but until we know for sure, we can't positively say 'Yes, this is Edward Lighthart,'" she said.

The man still refers to himself as Jon Doe, Drain said. He told the Times the name doesn't sound familiar.

"But the image is definitely me," he said, referring to photographs that friends had e-mailed of Lighthart.

"I guess there's a little bit of relief and at the same time a lot of anxiety," Lighthart told the Times Thursday. "I'm still not sure quite what to make of it all."

Man of 'many talents'
Seattle police say the man emerged from the park around 6:15 a.m. on July 30 knowing he didn't live in the Seattle area, but unsure of much else. He flagged down a Metro bus driver, who called police for help.

The man appeared to be well-educated, in reasonable health and in his 50s, according to the police report. He told police he thought he was of German descent.

He was wearing an expensive dress shirt, pressed khakis and $600 hidden in his sock, and appeared to have an extensive knowledge of European cultural history, the Times reported.

Randall Snyder, a friend from Columbus, Ohio, said Thursday he recognized a photograph of the man as Lighthart.

The two attended graduate school together at the Union Institute in Cincinnati. An institute spokeswoman said an Edward Lighthart was enrolled in a doctorate program there from March 1993 to June 1994.

"Ed was particularly very good at the masters of painting," Snyder said. "He's quite a versatile guy. He has many talents. He's been a translator, taught in schools, got a degree in culinary arts."

'Overwhelming experience for him'
The man told the newspaper he went to the University of Wisconsin in the early 1980s, studied at the University of Chicago and Columbia University and lived in Paris, Vienna, Sydney, Shanghai and Bratislava, Slovakia.

The man remembers bits of his professional past, trips to other countries and his teaching, but doesn't recall much personal information, Drain said.

"Little by little, things do come to his mind and he shares that with us," she said.

The man has been at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center as Jon Doe since July 30. Three psychiatrists who examined the man believe his amnesia is genuine, Dr. Bruce Larson, a psychiatrist who has been attending to the man, told the Times.

Hospital spokeswoman Melissa Tizon said Thursday that the man was declining further media requests for interviews.

"He said he felt numb. This is an overwhelming experience for him," Drain said. "He's taking all this in. All of a sudden, this new information is coming in."