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Body Of Bootlegger Found In Idaho Cave Finally Identified 40 Years After Its Discovery

40 years ago, in 1979, the torso of a man’s body was found in an Idaho cave.

Now, on New Year’s Eve 2019, the body has finally been identified, Boise, Idaho’s KTVB News reports.

What a time to be alive.


Now, with the benefit of about a century of hindsight, we can piece together this 103 years-in-the-making tale.

This dead dude, found in Idaho’s Civil Defense Caves, is named Joseph Henry Loveless. And that last name is about to get all too appropriate.

As I mentioned, the skeletal remains of Loveless’ torso were discovered in 1979 by a family hunting for some arrowheads. Can you imagine reaching for some sharp stone and coming up with a sternum.

Of course, when this initial discovery was made, people got straight to work identifying the remains.

But they got stumped. And they stayed stumped even when, in 1991, a young child came across the arms and legs of the same body.

FBI forensic specialists and the Smithsonian both put in time trying to identify the headless skeleton.

But now we have far more robust DNA technologies to solve this kind of problem.

So, recently, the case was handed to Idaho State University’s Anthropology Department. When those researchers teamed up with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the DNA Doe Project, the case was solved.

The DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to using DNA technology to identify John and Jane Does, managed to digitize the torso and limb bones. From there, an extensive family tree was assembled.

Eventually, a living ancestor was identified. This man, Loveless’ 87-year-old grandson, had his DNA tested. The result was a “one-to-one” match.

Case Closed.


Of the identification, DNA Doe project team leader Anthony Redgrave said:

“We can now confidently say that the torso found in the Civil Caves in 1979 belonged to Joseph Henry Loveless, born in Utah Territory in 1870.”

Redgrave went on to highlight the significance of this find:

“This is one of the oldest cases solved using autosomal DNA. We solved the case in about three and a half months after getting the DNA information back from the lab.”

Investigators were also able to put some biographical info together as well.

Apparently this guy Joseph Henry Loveless was doing some pretty stereotypical wild west living.

Loveless earned his living bootlegging alcohol and counterfeiting cash. He had multiple aliases throughout his life. He went to jail plenty of times, routinely escaping by hiding a saw in his shoe.

But in May 1916, Loveless killed his wife with an axe and totally split.

Then, in circumstances yet unknown, he was killed, cut into pieces, and thrown in the cave. There he laid for 63 years, until that hunting family rolled up.

In case you were wondering, the head is still missing.


And believe it or not, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office still considers this an open homicide case. So if you come across any random heads, tweet at them!

If real life mysteries are your thing, you can watch the series Unsolved Mysteries here.

Eric Spring

Written by Eric Spring

Eric Spring lives in New York City. He has poor vision and cooks a good egg. Most of his money is spent on live music and produce. He usually wears plain, solid color sweatshirts without hoods because he assumes loud patterns make people expect something big. Typically, he'll bypass a handshake and go straight for the hug.