The Will County Coroner’s Office is identifying a man who died in Lockport 40 years ago.
March 15,2023 an unidentified murder victim from 1980 was identified through Forensic Genetic Genealogy leads developed by Othram Inc.
On 7-30-1980 the body of an unidentified man was discovered in a wooden crate located at the Lockport locks powerplant in Will County. This power plant is located on the west side of the canal.
The Power Plant is part of the Chicago Water Reclamation Canal. The crate containing the body had been removed using heavy equipment, along with other debris from a grate that prevents objects from flowing into the power plant. The debris is loaded into a truck and dumped on power plant property.
The 4’x4’X2‘ deep crate had been nailed shut and a 1.5 inch hole drilled into it. The victim had been sealed in the crate. The crate broke open sometime during removal and dumping by power plant employees. The victim was found by an employee a couple of days later while looking for driftwood. Advanced decomposition made identification difficult.
An autopsy indicated that the victim had been shot several times.
He had likely been in the water a couple of weeks. Will County Sheriff Investigators ran down numerous leads over the next 4 years until the case grew cold.
The victim is described as a Male/White 5’11“, about 175 Lbs., light brown hair, estimated 30-40 YOA,
eye color unknown. Possibly a smoker, with type ‘A‘ blood.
He was wearing blue work type pants, green work shirt, wool socks, one house slipper.
Partial fingerprints were recovered from the body. They were submitted to both state and federal databases for comparison but failed to match anyone. Some dental evidence was developed but did not match any known missing persons.
November 2008 then Will County Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil created a part time cold case unit consisting of two retired police detectives. Along with other cases this unit and Will County Sheriff Police Investigators investigated this murder hoping to identify the victim.
2009 the cold case investigators sent hair standards to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification where they profiled mtDNA, nDNA, with STR’s. The profile was entered into the national DNA database for missing and unidentified persons. This database cycles he samples routinely, yet no
match was made.
Over the next 10 years the Will County Coroner Cold Case unit and the Will county Sheriff Investigators re-interviewed several people and ran down new leads.
2020 newly elected Coroner Laurie Summers approved additional funding for cold case investigations making it her priority to utilize new emerging technologies along with old fashioned investigative techniques.
This has led to the Coroner’s office solving 5 cold cases over the last year alone.
In 2021 the coroner’s office partnered with Othram Inc. Othram employes Forensic Genetic Genealogy techniques to identify victims and suspects. Othram uses their own lab for DNA recovery, enrichment, and analysis. Results are entered into public databases such as Family Tree.
In this particular case half of the funding came from DNASolves.com and the other half from Will County.
Since there were no suitable standards available a court order was obtained to disinter the victim.
6-27-22 the victims remains were disinterred with the help of University Of Illinois Forensic Anthropology Department. Skeletal standards were later sent to Othram for analysis.
November 2022 Beth Buckholtz, a forensic sculpture of Colorado. provided a facial cranial
reconstruction of the victim.
Feb.16, 2023 Othram provided possible relatives of the victim, whom they believed is a Webster Fisher, based on their analysis. Cold case investigators made contact with the potential relatives and determined from their interviews that Webster Fisher was very likely the unidentified man.
A DNA standard was obtained from a close relative and sent to Othram.
March 15, 2023 representatives of Othram contacted the coroner’s office indicating that Webster Fisher is in fact the unidentified man.
This is the fourth Will County Coroner cold case solved through the partnership with Othram in a year.