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DNA Doe Project help Clark County identify murder victim

Photo of Joseph Henry Loveless whose body was identified through DNA research.
Photo of Joseph Henry Loveless whose body was identified through DNA research.
DNA Doe Project help Clark County identify murder victim

UPDATE December 31, 2019 9:15 p.m.:

DUBOIS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - A murder mystery decades in the making is solved. After decades of investigation, detectives finally uncovered the identity of the victim who was first discovered in a cave in 1979.

After 40 years, investigators say the headless torso is the remains of Joseph Henry Loveless. By their estimation, he was killed 103 years ago. His body was mummified within a cave just outside Dubois, Idaho.

Clark County Sheriff, Bart May, has been working in law enforcement for nearly 30 years. In that time, it was nearly impossible to identify the headless torso remains.

"We were really excited to let it out. It's a big deal," May said.

Based on extensive historical documents, Henry was born December 3rd 1870 is Payson, Utah. He was the son of pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He married his first wife in Salt Lake City 1899, but later divorced and moved to Idaho. Years later he met Agnes Octavia Caldwell and had four children. Although he had a large family, he had many other exploits including bootlegging liquor during prohibition. He was arrested multiple times and escaped but always managed to escape from jail. He was known for sawing the bars off his jail cell by keeping a saw in his boot. In 1916, Henry’s wife Agnes was murdered by an axe by a man named Charles Smith, one of henry’s many aliases. Other reports corroborate that suspicious by stating it was her husband. Once again, Henry was jailed and again escaped. By then, Henry was an outlaw and lived in a tent on the outskirts of town. 

For the past 40 years, dozens of people worked this case. It wasn’t until anthropologists from Idaho State University called the DNA Doe Project to help solve the mystery. Anthony Redgrave, the lead investigator on this case from the DNA Doe Project says this case stands out among the rest.

“It feels amazing. I can’t even begin to express how exciting this case has been. There’s been no others that I’ve worked on like this,” Redgrave said.

The DNA Doe Project is an organization that helps law enforcement solve mysterious murder cases across the country. Through genetic testing, investigators create a family tree all in hopes to find a potential match. After 15 weeks, and more than 2000 hours of research they found a living grandson of the victim. Clark County Sheriff’s office reached out to the 87 year old living grandson of Henry to find out if his DNA matched the remains. Turns out, it was a match.

ISU professor of Anthropology, Samantha Blatt has been working closely with law enforcement as well as the DNA Doe Project. Through her experience with the case, she says she’ll take what she learned and apply it in the classroom.

“Its thrilling - nothing I’ve ever experienced before and probably never will again. It’s kind of a legend. And, it’s neat to be apart of this Idaho history.”

For now, the case is officially closed. However, Henry and the murder suspect will always be apart of Idaho history.

“From history we can draw conclusion of what happened, technically the case will be closed but it will always remain open on the books,” May said.

To find out more about the DNA Doe Project you can click HERE.


Through DNA research, Clark County Sheriff's office along with members of the Idaho State University’s DNA Doe Project have identified the headless body found in a cave 40 years ago.

The body was discovered in 1979 of a dismembered body in a sack in a Clark County cave.

The body was identified to belong to Joseph Henry Loveless. He was last noted to be seen in 1916 after escaping from jail.

By extracting DNA from the victim’s bones, investigators were able to identify a positive identification.

This is a developing story. Please check back for further updates

Original story

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - After 40 years, Clark County investigators have identified the victim of a gruesome murder whose dismembered body was discovered in a cave in Dubois.

A press conference is being held at the Dubois Community Center Tuesday at 1 p.m. to officially announce the victim's identity.

The Clark County Sheriff’s office, with the help of investigators at Idaho State University and researchers from the John Doe Project, say they have found a match through genealogical tests. By extracting DNA from the victim’s bones, investigators were able to find relatives to declare a positive identification.

Local News 8’s Brady Halbleib will be at the press conference. He will have the full story tonight at 10.

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