A new wrinkle has been added to a 40-year-old murder mystery. As The Guardian reports, a headless torso found in an Idaho cave in 1979 has been identified as the remains of Joseph Henry Loveless. Loveless was an escaped convict who murdered his wife in 1916, but the identity of his killer remains unknown.
The body was discovered by a family looking for arrowheads in Buffalo Cave in Clark County, Idaho, on August 26, 1979. The dismembered torso was wrapped in a burlap sack and dressed in dark pants, a pinstriped shirt, and a maroon sweater. It had been buried in a shallow grave 18 inches deep.
The case stayed cold until 1991, when a girl found a mummified hand in the same cave system. Authorities later uncovered an arm and two legs—all wrapped in burlap—in the area. Crime and anthropology experts from Idaho State University, the Smithsonian Institution, and the FBI were called to aid in the investigation, but with no head to match the body, their work sputtered.
At the end of 2019, the case saw its first major breakthrough. Earlier that year, Idaho State University and the Clark County police had reached out to the DNA Doe Project—a nonprofit that uses forensic genealogy to identify remains—for its expertise. By building a genealogical tree and digging up historical records, they were able to connect the body to Joseph Henry Loveless, a descendent of Mormon pioneers and a felon who was last seen escaping from jail in 1916.
Loveless used an ax to murder his second wife, Agnes Octavia Caldwell Loveless, on May 5, 1916. By that time, he had already been arrested twice for bootlegging and had escaped imprisonment by sawing through his jail bars. The DNA Doe Project reports [PDF] that one of Loveless's children was quoted as saying at his mother Agnes's funeral: "Papa never stayed in jail very long and he'll soon be out."
Loveless slipped out of his jail cell on May 18, 1916, and was never seen alive by authorities again. His wanted poster described him as wearing a red sweater and black trousers—the same clothing found on his body decades later. This leads investigators to believe that he died shortly after escaping jail in 1916.
Clark County authorities contacted the 87-year-old grandson of Joseph Henry Loveless, who now lives in California, and asked for a DNA sample. Their analysis confirmed that the grandson is the direct descendent of the man found in Buffalo Cave. Beyond that, Loveless's living relatives weren't able to provide any leads, as they hadn't been aware of their ancestor's colorful history. For now, the case of the escaped murderer's own grisly death remains open.
[h/t The Guardian]