Police to exhume body in search of clues in '69 death
SALEM - Police have won approval from a judge to exhume the body of a man found shot to death in August 1969 along Interstate 93 in hopes of identifying him - and possibly his killer.
A road work crew found the body in a water-filled ditch between Exit 1 and 2 on Aug. 7, 1969, but Salem police at the time were able to learn little about the bullet-riddled man.
"His fingerprints were sent to the FBI. That wasn't successful," Salem police Capt. James Chase said, the lead investigator in the case. "He had a Bradlees T-shirt on. But it never came close to identifying him."
The man was shot four times - twice in the head, once in the torso and once in the neck - and already in a state of decomposition when he was found, according to investigators.
Now 43 years later, investigators are hoping technological advances can revive the case, first by giving the man a face and a name. They won't know how successful they might be until the body is exhumed from an unmarked plot at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Salem next Wednesday. Investigators will try to obtain DNA samples from the remains and possibly have a facial reconstruction performed, depending on what they find.
"I don't know the condition of the skull," said Chase. "When we open the casket, we'll see."
The new investigation by Salem police comes five months after Chase and retired Salem police Detective Paul Marchand solved the 1990 murder of John Pond Sr., 26, a wheelchair-bound man stabbed to death inside his home. Mark Craig, who died at a halfway house in 2009, was identified as Pond's killer, prompting state prosecutors to officially close the case.
Police used DNA technology and a grand jury investigation to solve Pond's murder.
Blood samples taken from the 1990 crime scene showed Craig's DNA was co-mingled with Pond's inside the home. Chase is working on the 1969 case with Salem police Detective Michael White. An investigator with the state Attorney General's Office recently found the unmarked grave in Salem using a map and other records, Chase said.
Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said the New Hampshire Attorney General's Cold Case Unit, and the state Medical Examiner's Office will be assisting them on the new investigation.
Police will exhume the body with assistance from Salem Public Works officials and workers from Douglas and Johnson Funeral Home, Patten said.
Investigators believe the man was between the ages of 25 and 40, stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed about 225 pounds. Chase said he has been encouraged by the willingness of others to collaborate on the case. He has been in contact with a facial re-constructionist with a state police agency who said he will work on the case for free.
A facial reconstruction could give the public a glimpse of the deceased man for the first time, which hopefully could yield clues about his identity, police said.
"Hopefully we'll be able to get a picture out there of what this guy looked like," Patten said.
Chase said he remains hopeful that the body has been well preserved. If DNA can be extracted from either tissue or bone marrow, it will be entered into a national database maintained by the FBI, Chase said.