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Police: New leads in old homicide case in which victim remains John Doe

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
  • Anyone with information about the man's identity is asked to call West Manchester Twp. Police at 717-792-9514.

Officials said they hope a forensic artist's clay reconstruction of York County John Doe's face jogs the memory of someone who can help police identify the homicide victim.

In November 2013, a tree-trimming crew discovered a full set of skeletal remains just off Loucks Road near the intersection of Route 74 in West Manchester Township.

Penn State forensic artist Jenny Kenyon speaks at a press conference at the West Manchester Township municipal building about the process of creating a clay model of the face of a homicide victim known as West Manchester John Doe. Township Police Chief John Snyder (left) and York County DA Dave Sunday also attended the press conference, held Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Police are hoping the clay model will jog the memory of someone who recognizes him.
(Bill Kalina photo)

Since then, West Manchester Township Police have determined the man was a victim of homicide but have declined to make public his cause of death.

Experts and scientists also have determined the man was likely between 35 and 45 years old, 5-feet-5 to 5-feet-8, was white or primarily white and was born in the United States, in the southeastern portion of the country.

He wore an inexpensive upper dental plate and was missing some teeth in the upper right side of his mouth, officials said.

A Penn State University forensic artist created this clay reconstruction of what a West Manchester Twp. homicide victim might have looked like. She used a 3D-printed model of an unidentified homicide victim's skull as the base, she said. Police said a skeleton found along Loucks Road in November 2013 was the victim of homicide, but police haven't been able to identify him.

He also suffered serious head trauma that broke his nose and the orbital bone around his left eye. However, police said the wound had healed or was healing, meaning it was unrelated to his death.

Muscular neck, jaw: The trauma left the victim with an asymmetrical face, according to Jenny Kenyon, a forensic artist with Penn State University's Digital Fabrication and Specialized Technologies Department. Kenyon is the artist who created the clay reconstruction of what the man's face could have looked like.

At a news conference Thursday, Dec. 6, in the West Manchester Township building, Kenyon said the man was thin but had a muscular neck and muscular jawline.

Township Officer Lance Krout, the lead investigator in the effort to identify the victim, told reporters that testing and examination also determined the victim spent his last decade in or around Pennsylvania.

At this point, staff at the University of Arizona are using carbon dating to try to narrow down when the victim was born, Krout said.

He said they have a DNA sample from the skeletal remains, but that so far they've been unable to submit the sample to genealogical databases because it's not strong enough. That effort is ongoing, he said.

A clay model of a homicide victim known as West Manchester John Doe created by Penn State forensic artist Jenny Kenyon was on display during press conference at the West Manchester Township building Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Investigators are looking for the public's help to identify the victim, whose skeletal remains were found off Loucks Road in the township in 2013. 
(Bill Kalina photo)

The victim's information has been added to NamUs, a national database of missing persons, Krout told reporters.

Undiscovered for years: Forensic experts estimate John Doe's body was lying in a brushy area a few feet off Loucks Road near the intersections of Haviland Road and Route 74 for between three and 10 years — and perhaps for as long as 18 or 20 years, according to Krout.

"There's a very good possibility this subject didn't live in the area," he said.

The body was in a culvert that hid it from the view of passing drivers, police said.

The victim's underwear was still with the skeletal remains, according to Krout, and they were size small.

The York County Forensics Team did a second investigation at the site where skeletal remains were found in November 2013. West Manchester Twp. Police said it's not uncommon for investigators to return to a scene to do a second search for evidence.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

Asked whether John Doe was killed where his remains were found or whether his body was dumped there after he was killed, the officer said investigators "have opinions" but can't yet discuss them publicly.

Krout, who's been a member of the York County Forensic Team since 2006, acknowledged trying to identify John Doe has been frustrating work that has required him to ask families of missing people to dredge up painful memories.

Police said they can't focus on the crime itself until they identify John Doe.

"You're not going to find the (homicide) suspect until you figure out who the victim is," Krout said.

West Manchester Township Police Officer Lance Krout speaks at a press conference Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, at the West Manchester Township municipal building about an unidentified homicide victim found in the township in 2013. A Penn State forensic artist has now created a clay recreation of the victim's face. 
(Bill Kalina photo)

'Personal mission': West Manchester Township Police Chief John Snyder said Krout has "worked tirelessly" to identify John Doe.

"He has made this a personal mission," the chief said.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday said at the news conference that the unsolved homicide case has gotten to this point through "old-fashioned police work combined with modern technology."

"There's someone who's missing a loved one and wants to know what happened," Sunday said.

Anyone with information about the man's identity is asked to call West Manchester Township Police at 717-792-9514 and ask for Officer Krout. Or call York County Crime Stoppers at 717-755-TIPS.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.