The Benton County Sheriff’s Office has decided to reopen all of their cold cases. Some cases span back decades. There are unsolved homicides and deaths and some where the victim was never even identified.
Detectives believe modern science, a fresh set of eyes, and DNA technology could finally crack some of these cases.
“They just have a relentless desire to bring justice not only for the victims but for the families involved as well,” Deputy Keshia Guyll from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said.
The first cold case Benton County detectives are trying to solve they call their coldest. A possibly mentally handicapped man was murdered and left to rot in a field. No justice to this day and we don’t even know where his remains are.
Be warned, there are graphic crime scene photos in the story above.
“Leads stopped coming in and the case went cold and here we are 35 years later,” Detective Hunter Petray said.
It’s June 1981. Just outside Garfield in Benton County, a dirt road, separated from the nearby train tracks with a grass field that serves as a tomb.
It’s hot. It’s humid.
Neighbors complain of a terrible smell until one passes by and discovers a body nearly completely skeletonized, shot multiple times in the head. .
“He was badly decomposed so he had been there for quite sometime maybe one to two months possibly more,” Petray said.
Investigators follow every lead they can but the case goes cold.
“Somebody out there knows what happened, it’s a homicide the guy didn’t die on his own,” Petray said. “He was shot and laid out here.”
A murderer never brought to justice and a victim never identified.
Fast forward 35 years. Detective Hunter Petray is doing everything he can to crack the case. But, he doesn’t have much to work with.
Here’s what they have: John Doe was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, tennis shoes, and a watch. But now, they only have the watch. A few pubic hairs were recovered.
“Obviously these are cold cases and 35 years later it’s really cold,” Petray said.
DNA technology could lead investigators to identifying John Doe, or at least to know more about his race and background.
So, those hairs are on their way to the state crime lab. But, because the technology didn’t exist 35 years ago there wasn’t protocol for keeping evidence. So, detectives are trying to find John Doe’s skeleton.
“It’s a little frustrating but I know that the detectives back then did everything they could with the resources that we had,” Petray said.
Very few reports from the original case were in the file.
“All the reports back then were hand written out they weren’t typed on the computer or typed on the typewriter,” Petray said.
Detective Petray talked to the lead investigator on the case in 1981, Don Townsend. And, learned there’s one piece of information that wasn’t on those reports.
John Doe had a condition called hydrocephalus, meaning extra fluid in the brain. Petray says that’s a piece of information that could be a game changer for the case.
If you have any information on this case call the Benton County Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigation Division at (479)271-1008.