Idaho officials say a dismembered body found in a cave more than 40 years ago has been identified, thanks to genetic genealogy.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the body belonged to Joseph Henry Loveless, an outlaw and a murderer who was killed after escaping jail in 1916, the DNA Doe Project announced Tuesday.
Loveless was born in 1870 in Payson, Utah Territory, to parents who belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He had one child with his first wife, Harriett Jane “Hattie” Savage, who divorced him in 1904. He had four children with his second wife, Agnes Octavia Caldwell.
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He was arrested for bootlegging in 1913 and again in 1914 when “he made one of his many escapes by sawing through the jail bars,” Lee Bingham Redgrave of the DNA Doe Projec said at a news conference Tuesday.
In an escape in March 1916, Loveless, who used a variety of aliases, managed to stop the train that was escorting him to jail and flee. He was recaptured and sent back to jail, where he escaped – again.
On May 11, 1916 Loveless was arrested for the murder of his wife, Agnes. At her funeral, one of her children reportedly said, “Papa never stayed in jail very long and he’ll soon be out.”
Sure enough, several days later, investigators believe Loveless cut through the bars of his jail using a saw hidden in his shoe. Once again, he was on the run.
He most likely died in May 1916 at age 46 shortly after that escape, but the case is still open because investigators don’t know who killed and dismembered him.
Loveless’ headless torso was discovered in a burlap sack by police in the Buffalo Cave near Dubois, Idaho, in August 1979, setting off a search for the rest of the remains or other artifacts. When his limbs were discovered in 1991 by an 11-year-old girl, researchers and students from Idaho State University began searching for his head.
His skull was never found.
After trying to identify the body for several years, the team at ISU reached out to the DNA Doe Project for assistance in 2019.
Researchers were able to build out a family tree using forensic genealogy and discovered the identity of the body. The victim’s name was confirmed by law enforcement officials, police records and via comparison with a living grandchild.
“In all likelihood Henry had been murdered and transported to the cave not long after he escaped, making his post mortem interval – the time between his death and discovery of his body – as long as 63 years,” Bingham Redgrave said. “This case has been historic in more than one meaning of the word.”
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