New DNA findings help identify murder victim found in 1980
The remains of a man shot multiple times and sealed inside a crate discovered in 1980 at a suburban Chicago power plant have been identified as a long-missing Chicago man, authorities said.
The Will County Coroner’s Office announced Wednesday that Othrum Inc., a Texas-based company that specializes in forensic DNA sequencing, identified Webster Fisher’s remains.
Will County Coroner
The Chicago man would have been 29 on July 30, 1980, in a wooden crate at the Lockport Lock Power Plant in Will County, said Joe Piper, deputy coroner and cold case investigator for the Will County Coroner’s Office. .
CBS Chicago reported The 4-foot by 4-foot by 2-foot crate was nailed shut with 1.5-inch holes, according to the coroner’s office. The crate collapsed while power plant workers were removing and dumping it, the coroner’s office said.
“Obviously there were a lot of mob-related deaths in that era and a lot came into Will County,” said Will County Sheriff’s Police Sgt. Mike Earnest told the station. “So do we explore that possibility? Yes. That’s something I can say for sure? I don’t know.”
An autopsy showed the man had been shot multiple times and his body had been in the water for about two weeks, the coroner’s office said.
Efforts to identify the man proved unsuccessful, and after nearly four years investigators considered the case a cold case. But in June 2022, the man’s remains were exhumed for analysis as part of a partnership between Othram and the coroner’s office to identify victims and suspects.
In February, Othrum gave investigators the names of possible relatives of the man, who they believed to be Fisher.
It was analyzed by Othram after a close relative of Fisher provided a DNA sample, which informed the coroner’s office on March 15 that it confirmed the unknown man was Fisher.
“It obviously sealed the deal, but the new technology, what an asset,” Piper told CBS Chicago.
Fisher’s wife recently told investigators that her husband left the house in mid-July 1980 to get cigarettes at a gasoline station a block away but never returned, Piper said. Relatives said Fisher was eventually reported missing to the Chicago Police Department, he said.
“It’s nice to have this gentleman give somebody’s father, somebody’s uncle, somebody’s brother and family some closure, because … they’re watching and thinking about what’s going on with their loved one,” Piper said.
Police are now looking for Fisher’s killer. Earnest said Thursday that the office is in the “very early stages of the investigation” into her death.
He added, such a decade-old case would pose challenges for investigations.
“We’re kind of working backwards,” Earnest told the Chicago Tribune.