This story appeared in the National Post of Canada this past April. I would have posted the link but they removed the story from there so I had to copy the whole story below:
THE COUPLE NOBODY CLAIMED
Adrian Humphreys, National Post Published: Friday, April 04, 2008
It was after midnight on Aug. 9, 1976, when a young man and woman - she "slender, attractive" and he "well-developed, well-nourished" - stepped from the back of a van on a secluded, dirt road in South Carolina. There, beneath the longleaf pine trees, they were both shot twice in the back. Someone then made sure the deed was thorough: rolling the two onto their backs and firing a point-blank shot with a .357-calibre handgun under each chin. When the sun rose over Sumter County, in the heart of the southern state, a truck driver spotted the bodies lying in the grass some 400 metres from a busy interstate highway, their limbs cocked at awkward angles, mouths frozen in an apparent gasp. By 6:20 a.m., officers with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office were probing what would become their most vexing mystery. They found no wallet or purse and, as such, no identification.
The couple lay side by side in the morgue while officials waited for grieving parents, expected to burst through the door at any moment once news sped through the county of 70,000. After days without anyone coming forward, the bodies were moved to a funeral home and placed in airtight coffins with windows in the lids to allow visual identification. A few tearful people came looking for missing loved ones but no one recognized the bodies. In time, they were moved to a storage building. A year later, the Sheriff pushed his parish to make room in its cemetery; the couple, estimated to be between 18 and 26 years old, was buried beneath decorative tombstones - "Male-Unknown" and "Female-Unknown" their only designation. After three decades, their identities remain a mystery. From the old case file, however, emerges what may be the most promising clue: Authorities now believe they came from Canada after the man feuded with his father, who was a doctor, because he would not pursue a career in medicine.
Verna Moore remembers the day the two bodies were found. As an assistant to the coroner at the time, she combed their matted hair before a photographer took their pictures. "The thing that impressed me about her was her beautiful, long eyelashes. You don't often see them like that," Ms. Moore said. "They were clean. They had no drugs or alcohol in them. They had nice jewellery on. They had stayed someplace the night before and taken showers. That impressed everybody. You couldn't say they were hitchhiking or living on the streets." She has never forgotten the case. Now at age 81 and having since been elected chief coroner, Ms. Moore wants to reunite the couple with their relatives before she retires. At the Sumter County Sheriff's Office she has found a ready partner. "The case went cold, so far as their identity is concerned," said Sergeant Ray Mackessy, who is in charge of police evidence storage. "It had just been in a box on the shelf, and it laid there for years and years." Much work had been done and some mistakes made.
Perhaps the best chance for solving the mystery came four months after the murder when a South Carolina man was arrested for drinking and driving. Under his car seat police found a .357-calibre handgun. Tests linked it to the slayings. The man with the gun, Lonnie George Henry, was asked about the murders while hooked up to a lie detector and the experts declared he was telling the truth when he said he did not kill them; he was, however, lying about where he got the gun. Police were sure he knew more than he was saying. "No charges were ever laid in it, and he has since gone on to his just reward," said Sgt. Mackessy. Mr. Henry died in 1982, without revealing his secrets. "We're obviously not going to get a prosecution in this," Ms. Moore said. "I just want to find out who they are." Ms. Moore and Sgt. Mackessy have retraced the case as best they can but leads are dwindling. Their hopes now rest on Canada.
There have been many guesses over the decades as to what brought the young couple to Sumter County. Some have suggested they were in the Witness Protection Program. Others suspected they were couriering drugs up from Florida. Victims of a deadly carjacking was a popular theory. Others whispered that their parents might have had them bumped off.
"There are all kinds of guesses all really based on nothing," said Sgt. Mackessy. "It's like they came here from another planet."
Or, as investigators now believe, Canada. "Even after all these years I realized there were things that had not come out and not followed up on. It never came out that he said he was from Canada," Ms. Moore said. The Canadian connection comes from a four-page report found in the evidence box, written a year after the murders by Lieutenant James E. Gamble of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Lt. Gamble received a phone call from a man named David Batson who said he recognized the dead man. Mr. Batson's wife, Janie, worked at a nearby KOA Campground, the report says. While at the campground, Mr. Batson met a young man and woman who said they were passing through on their way to Florida. A few days later, they returned to the campground, telling Mr. Batson that they liked it there more than in Florida. They stayed at the KOA for a couple of weeks and Mr. Batson shot pool with the man several times. He later believed his pool partner was the mystery victim. "The man was called Jock," says Lt. Gamble's report. "He stated that he believed the man had mentioned he was from Canada; that he had formerly been a schoolteacher and that his father was a medical doctor. He further stated that the man told him that his family had practically disowned him because they had wanted him so badly to be a doctor." One evening as they played pool, "Jock" tried to sell Mr. Batson a ring he was wearing. The ring looked "very similar" to one police found on the dead man's finger, Mr. Batson said.
The possible name is intriguing because on the underside of the dead man's ring are three engraved letters: JPF. If the letters are the three initials of his name, then perhaps the J stands for Jock; or, as a private investigator working on the case, suggests: If the man was from Canada, perhaps it is "Jacques" rather than "Jock." Mr. Batson's tantalizing tip, however, seemed to get lost. "There is nothing in the file to indicate they followed up on that information about Canada," Sgt. Mackessy said. Both Lt. Gamble and Mr. Batson have since died and the KOA has closed. Ms. Moore, however, tracked down the former KOA owners. They told her they kept detailed records on campers - including names, addresses and even photographs. Those records, however, had been destroyed when their home burned. "I can't tell you how disappointing that was," she said.
The elaborate dental work on the young male victim also seemed a promising lead, but when Sgt. Mackessy looked for the teeth they were missing. A note in the file said they had been sent to a dentist for analysis. When they tracked down the dentist, he said he had given the teeth to the local school for training purposes. School officials said they had recently been disposed of. Ms. Moore next convinced the television show Unsolved Mysteries to feature the case. That prompted 200 calls, which were pursued without success. In recent years, a small army of volunteers has sprung up to help Ms. Moore. One local woman hopes to write a book about the case; another writes poetry inspired by it. Psychics have offered their musings and several amateur online sleuths have created Web sites to publicize the case. Ms. Hutchison, the private investigator, scoured lists of Canadian doctors practising in 1976, looking for a possible father to the dead man. She found a Montreal physician who bore a striking resemblance. Ms. Moore phoned him and asked if he had a missing son. He said he did not.
Medical science might still play a part in putting names to the victims. Last summer, the two coffins were dug up. When Dr. Keene Garvin, a forensic pathologist, learned whom he was going to be exhuming he was surprised. Back in 1976 he helped perform their autopsies. "They were fresh and in good condition - they could have had an open casket funeral. They were a young, handsome couple; they had money. I remember saying somebody would identify this couple immediately," he said.
"I was shocked to find they were never identified." Both were white, with olive tones to their skin and were between 18 and 26 years old. She was 5-foot-6, weighed about 105 pounds and had brown hair, blue-grey eyes, long eyelashes and two small moles to the left of her mouth. She wore a white blouse over a peach halter top and blue Levi's jeans cut off into shorts with a floral scarf as a belt. She wore purple and pink wedge shoes and three silver rings with embedded gems. He was just over 6 feet and weighed about 150 pounds. He had brown hair, brown eyes and bushy eyebrows. He was undergoing extensive dental reconstruction and had two scars on his left shoulder. He wore a red Coors T-shirt, blue jeans and brown sandals. He had a Bulova Accutron gold watch and a gold ring with a gem and the engraved letters JPF. Their autopsy notes describe the couple simply: "slender, attractive" and "well-developed, well-nourished." Three decades after he first saw them, Dr. Garvin once again returned to the couple's remains. He took bone samples he hopes will yield DNA. Without something to compare the DNA with, however, it will be of little help. That means hope in Sumter County again turns to Canada. "If someone in Canada came forward and said, 'I think that is my brother or sister,' or whatever, then we could obtain an oral sample from them to compare. It's our best bet," Sgt. Mackessy said. Added Ms. Moore: "I cannot understand how two young people disappeared from somewhere and that their parents would not be looking for them. It is unreal that after all this time - it will be 32 years this summer - that nobody seems to be looking for them." Or maybe they have just been looking in all the wrong places.
Do you recognize these people? Anyone with information about the victims can phone Verna Moore, coroner, at 803-436-2111.
Warning: Crime scene and morgue photos in attachment below.
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