COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is trying to solve a cold case dating back to 1978. Forensic art that has recently been refreshed renewed interest in the case.
On Nov. 24, 1978, a motorist accidentally hit a deer on I-10 near a Columbia County rest stop. He stopped to see if he could find the deer and while searching in the pine needles, he found skeletal remains scattered among the pine trees. Other than a piece of denim found near the bones, there wasn’t much to go on for investigators looking to identify the remains.
Jason Futch of Lake City founded Suwanee County Unsolved, and when he was a teenager he became interested in the case. All these years later, he is still following what is now a 44-year-old cold case. Futch wants to see it solved.
“This case has actually stuck to me since I was a preteen and I just remembered it over the years, looking at the forensic art and understanding the facts of the case,” said Futch. “I also befriended the detective who picked up the case in 1996.”
An anthropology team at FSU examined the bones and determined they were those of a male between 35 and 50 years of age. He was 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and he may have walked with a limp. And they made some other approximations as well. His manner and cause of death are listed as undetermined in a medical examiner’s report.
Over the years many leads were followed and quickly exhausted by investigators.
In 1996, Anne Coy of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office created forensic renderings of the unidentified male to show what he may have looked like.
In 2019, Anthony Redgrave, an artist and lead genealogist with Redgrave Research Forensics Services created a new forensic approximation. And now, in 2022, with advanced technology, Redgrave created what Futch believes is a more accurate rendering.
“What he did in this new release is he revised the release to his current standards and he was able to give this John Doe a more life-like appearance,” Futch said.
Futch believes that the updated forensic image may lead to someone identifying the person even after all these years. He thinks the person may have been a transient or perhaps estranged from his family. He wants to circulate the new improved rendering on “True Crime” websites and podcasts with hopes of bringing closure to a family who never found out what happened to a lost loved one.
If you have any information, you’re asked to call Detective Sgt. Jimmy Watson at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at 386-758-1095 or CrimeStoppers at 386-754-7099.