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Identity of man in 40-year-old cold case to be revealed Tuesday


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Clothing and burlap from the John Doe. | Courtesy

DUBOIS — Forty years ago the torso of a man was found in the Civil Defense Caves and tomorrow his identity will be revealed.

On Tuesday, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office will join with the Idaho State University Anthropology Department and the DNA Doe Project to reveal the identity of Buffalo Cave John Doe.

In August, DNA Doe Project announced they had a tentative identification of the man, whose torso was discovered in the civil defense caves in 1979. DNA Doe Project said they were not able to announce the man’s name or history until the Clark County Sheriff’s Office could confirm his identity.

According to DNA Doe Project’s website, the Sheriff’s Office took DNA samples from those believed to be the man’s family members in order to verify his identity.


It was likely a warm summer day on Aug. 26, 1979, when a family decided to head to the Civil Defense caves to hunt for arrowheads. While exploring Buffalo Cave, the family discovered something grisly.

Wrapped in burlap and buried in a shallow grave was the headless torso of a man. He was wearing a white shirt with blue pinstripes and a maroon sweater. He was also missing his arms and legs.

Twelve years later, on March 30, 1991, an 11-year-old girl was exploring Buffalo Cave. She must have noticed something on the cave floor and when she went to inspect it, she discovered a mummified hand partially buried in the dirt.

Officials came in and excavated in the area. The found an arm and two legs. Like the torso, they were wrapped in burlap.

Over the years, volunteers and anthropology students at Idaho State University have searched the cave but no other remains have ever been found, including the man’s head.

In 2015, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office called on ISU’s anthropology department to help identify the man.

Kyra Stull searching for remains in Buffalo Cave. | Courtesy ISU

“If we can help identify the remains, we have the chance to solve a mystery, to help provide justice, and to possibly help a family find closure,” Kyra Stull said in an ISU news article in 2015.

At the time, Stull was an assistant professor of anthropology and a forensic anthropologist. She led the team, comprised of graduate students and staff from the anthropology department, who worked to identify the man.

Eventually, DNA Doe Project became involved in the effort to identify him. DNA Doe Project uses genetic genealogy to identify John and Jane Does.

Genetic genealogy is the methodology used to link Brian Dripps to the rape and murder of Angie Dodge and the exoneration of Chris Tapp.

Genetic genealogy uses advanced DNA testing in combination with innovative genetic analysis, sophisticated identification techniques and traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestors.

By using this methodology, DNA Doe Project has been able to identify the man. With the confirmation from the sheriff’s office, his identity will be released to the public more than 40 years after his remains were found.