SALEM — For 44 years, the murdered man’s identity has been a mystery.
Investigators knew little about him, other than he was probably between 28 and 40 years when his bullet-riddled body was dumped between Exits 1 and 2 along Interstate 93 in 1969. He had been shot four times — execution style.
Yesterday, nearly a year after the cold case probe was reopened and the victim’s body exhumed, investigators released facial reconstruction photographs they hope will finally help identify the man.
The New Hampshire attorney general’s office and Salem Police Department announced they are seeking the public’s help solving the murder. They released photos of a forensic artist’s reconstruction of the man’s head.
Harvey Pratt, considered one of the top forensic artists in the country, analyzed the skull and completed a model of the dead man. He had been shot twice in the head, once in the torso and once to the back of the neck.
The model shows a middle-aged man with a protracted jaw and large nose, among other distinct facial features.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said investigators have received some calls from the public in the past, but “nothing helpful.”
Strelzin said he is optimistic that will change.
“Our hope is because this person has a fairly distinctive look,” he will be identified, Strelzin said. “It is hard to identify someone without seeing the face. ... We are hoping someone can recognize this person and help identify him.”
Salem police Capt. James Chase is hopeful as well. He said the reconstruction should make it much easier to identify the man.
“At least we have a potential face to the victim,” Chase said. “The victim had distinct facial features that could stand out. He had a significant jaw, a nose that had been broken in the past. There are things we definitely learned from the reconstruction. We definitely now know he’s a white male. ... I think the facial features are definitely a huge bonus. He doesn’t look like everybody else.”
The body of the partially decomposed man, believed to be 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing approximately 225 pounds, was found by a road crew in a small pool of water on Aug. 7, 1969.
The man was exhumed from an unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery in December 2012. The state’s deputy chief medical examiner, Dr. Jennie Duval, examined the remains along with Dr. Marcella Sorg, a forensic anthropologist.
Some of the victim’s bones were sent last month to the FBI Nuclear DNA Unit to extract DNA to be added to the National Missing Person DNA Database. The database helps identify missing people and unidentified remains.
Chase contacted Pratt, who offered to help at no charge. Pratt, who works for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, has helped identify hundreds of human remains across the country and assisted in thousands of arrests, Strelzin said.
He helped solve the infamous the BTK case in Kansas — the murders of 10 people by Dennis Rader near Wichita between 1974 and 1991. Rader was known by his signature BTK, which stood for “Bind, Torture, Kill.”
Pratt also worked on cases that include the Green River Killer, serial murderer Ted Bundy and the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
Chase praised Pratt’s work.
“The forensic artist did a great job,” he said. “We’re at a standstill right now, waiting for the DNA results. ... A relative could provide DNA to see if there’s a match in the database.”
The reconstruction was completed based on the depth of soft tissue on various parts of the skull, Strelzin said. Tissue depth is affected by a person’s age, sex, race and body density.
Investigators hope they receive tips that will help them solve their second cold case murder in Salem in as many years.
“We’re definitely hoping someone out there remembers this guy and can give us his name, then we can start an active investigation,” Chase said. “We anticipate leads. If we get a significant one, we will run it pretty much as an active homicide investigation.”
Last year, DNA and other evidence were used to identify Mark Craig as the man who killed Salem resident John Pond Sr. in 1990. Craig had died of a drug overdose in 2004.
The body found along I-93 in Salem is just one of more than 100 the state’s Cold Case Unit is trying to solve, Strelzin said.
Other Salem cold cases:
William Dobens, 55, found with a fatal stab wound to the chest in his home at 7 South Policy St., May 2006;
Hai Bo (Paul) Lei, 26, of Boston, found March 30, 1995, on the side of Hampstead Road. Shot several times and strangled;
Henry Travers, 73, of Derry working as a night clerk at Fireside Motel on Route 28, found shot to death Aug. 30, 1980.
Melodie Stankiewicz, 27, of Cambridge, Mass., found stabbed to death and floating in Captain’s Pond, June 30, 1975.
Anyone with information on the unidentified man is asked to call Salem police Detective Michael White at 890-2383.
Staff writer Jo-Anne MacKenzie contributed to this report.