After 40 years of waiting for answers, the remains of a man who had gone unidentified may finally be laid to rest.
Idaho State University sent out a Wednesday news release announcing the remains found in Buffalo Cave in Clark County in 1979 had a tentative identification.
The remains of a male torso were first discovered by a family searching for arrowheads. The arms and legs were found in 1991, all wrapped in burlap, but the head was never found, making it impossible to identify the deceased with dental records.
For 40 years, professors at Idaho State University’s Anthropology Department have taken cracks at identifying the remains, an investigation undertaken with the help of Clark County’s two-man sheriff’s office.
The bones from Buffalo Cave case have been studied at the Smithsonian and the FBI and for decades have been kept by ISU, often used to help teach anthropology students.
University officials said they are waiting until law enforcement officers have received secondary confirmation of the deceased’s identity to name the person.
“We’re pretty positive even without the secondary confirmation,” ISU Associate Professor Samantha Blatt said. “But that helps too.”
Blatt and former ISU Assistant Professor Amy Michael reached out earlier this year to DNA Doe Project, an organization that works to identify John and Jane Does using forensic genealogy.
Forensic genealogy identifies an unknown subject by comparing their DNA to repositories such as GEDmatch. The technique has revolutionized criminal investigations and was used earlier this year to identify Brian Dripps as a suspect in the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge.
The organization raised funds online for the testing of the remains found in Buffalo Cave.
Several anthropology professors had attempted to identify the remains before Michael and Blatt were able to get a breakthrough in the case. Blatt said she felt lucky to be a part of the work to identify the deceased.
Blatt said family members of the deceased have been contacted and asked to submit DNA samples to confirm the results. Once those samples are confirmed, the university plans to talk about the man behind the mystery.
“The story of this man’s life is pretty incredible,” Michael said in an email. “I cannot wait to share the details that we found out as soon as we are allowed to do so.”
Clark County Chief Deputy John Clements has worked on the case since 2014. In May, he told the Post Register the case was being investigated as a murder, given how the body parts were hidden and appeared to have been cut with a saw. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office did not return a request for comment Thursday.
Once the remains are no longer needed for the investigation, the university will turn them over to the family members, allowing the victim to finally be put to rest.
“Hopefully the remains will be buried, and he gets his name back,” Blatt said.