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DNA testing underway on skeletal remains found in Stockton during search for Jose Dominguez

Jose "Che" Dominguez has been missing for 40 years and was last seen leaving to meet with friends in east Stockton.

STOCKTON, Calif. — After four decades of mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of Jose Esuaro Dominguez, authorities in Stockton may be close to a breakthrough in the then teenager's cold case, the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday.

For 40 years, holidays and everyday life for the family of Jose Dominguez of Stockton have been amiss. Known by family and friends as "Che," Dominguez went missing Aug. 2, 1981, when he was 16 years old.

Dominguez was last seen in a neighborhood of east Stockton walking away from his home planning to meet with friends to play ball at Stockton's Stribley Park, according to the FBI which has joined the investigation into the case.

A Dec. 16 search in an area of interest in east Stockton led to the discovery of partial skeletal remains, San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow said. The skeletal remains are now undergoing DNA testing with another update expected in a few weeks.

"Technology has changed a lot in these 40 years," Sheriff Withrow said. "We have had people reach out to us so we've collectively used the evidence that we've had and new information and that's how we're moving forward." 

Sheriff's deputies and investigators with the FBI searched the area acting on tips and information that had come in from the public.  

Acting on recent tips and information, a search was conducted earlier today in an undisclosed area of San Joaquin County...

Posted by San Joaquin County Sheriff's Unsolved Homicide/Missing Persons on Thursday, December 16, 2021

During the search, in an undisclosed area of Stockton, investigators were seen enlisting the help of specialized dogs to help look for remains. The search came one week after family members of Dominguez met with District Attorney Tori Verber-Salazar during an annual candlelight vigil for victims of violent crimes. 

According to the Sheriff's Office, the Dominguez case was one of several cold cases on a list to be reevaluated, a process that happened just over a year ago. 

"This case was evaluated and there are many solvability factors that we feel we can bring a resolution to this case," said Brian Barnes, Captain of the Sheriff's Offices' Investigations Division.

Dominguez was a student at Franklin High School in Stockton and an avid wrestler. In 1989, a person was charged for allegedly having a role in his disappearance. Those charges were dropped after a key witness shared his side of the story, the FBI reports.

"His family deserves to have their son back with them," Withrow said. "We are going to try to get them the closure that they deserve."

Anyone with information can call (209) 468-5087 or email coldcase@sjgov.org where tips can be given anonymously. The FBI is also asking for potential witnesses or those with information to call them at (916) 746-7000.

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