SALEM, N.H. — Police next week will exhume the body of a murder victim found on the side on Interstate 93 more than 43 years ago.
The man, who has never been identified, was discovered by a work crew in a water-filled ditch between Exits 1 and 2 on Aug. 7, 1969.
The victim had been shot execution style — twice in the back of the head, once in the back of the neck and once in the torso.
Police, the state medical examiners office, the Attorney Generals Office and representatives from Douglas and Johnson Funeral Home will exhume the victim’s remains from an unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery. The man’s remains will be re-autopsied.
Technological forensic techniques not available at the time the man was found may make it possible to identify the victim today, Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said.
There is no new evidence in the case that prompted the action, he said.
Police earlier this year solved their first cold case — the murder of John Pond Sr. in 1990. Using DNA and other evidence, police identified Mark Craig as the killer. They weren’t able to bring charges against Craig, who died of a drug overdose in 2004. But they could close the file and offer Pond’s family some closure.
Capt. James Chase and retired Sgt. Paul Marchand worked tirelessly to solve the Pond murder.
Now, Chase hopes to do the same in this case. But first, the victim must be identified.
In the Pond case, police had stacks of files, audio tapes, boxes of physical evidence.
For this unsolved murder, Chase said, he has a single binder he compiled. There are no crime scene photos, no police report.
There is more police don’t know than what they do.
The man, believed to be between 28 and 40 years old, was found face down in a water-filled ditch alongside I-93. He was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with an estimated weight of 225 pounds.
No one ever came forward to claim the body, nor to inquire whether the dead man could be a missing loved one.
Police don’t know what they will find when they exhume his body, Chase said. What they hope is to extract DNA from the remains, which would then be entered into the national FBI database, in hopes of finding a match from a relative.
They also hope to find sufficient evidence for an expert in facial/cranial reconstruction to sketch what the man looked like. If they can, they would disseminate the sketch in the hopes someone would recognize him.
The odds are staggering, but Chase is determined.
“You never know. It depends if the family reached out to someone and put their DNA in a database,” he said yesterday. “But it’s never going to be solved until we ID the victim.”
Police don’t even know whether the man was killed in Salem or killed elsewhere and his body dumped along the highway.
“The victim was shot execution style and dumped off the side of the highway,” Patten said. “Due to the nature of the evidence and manner in which the person was killed, there has been some discussion of whether it was a mob-related hit or a gangland hit. It happened back when there was a lot of that activity south of the border.”
Chase said he has wanted to reopen this case for several years, but had to wait until the Pond case was closed.
When he started investigating, he didn’t even know where the victim was buried. With the help of someone in the Attorney General’s Office and local cemetery workers, he found the unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery.
He and Detective Michael White will actively work the case, he said, although resources are limited.
Getting a DNA match would be big, he said.
“It would be like hitting the lottery if somebody put their DNA in a database,” he said. “Someone’s father, uncle, brother never came home, but it takes a special person to put their DNA in a database.”
While Chase is not overly optimistic, he said, “If I don’t do it, it’s not going to happen.”
If the remains lend themselves to facial/cranial reconstruction, police have a nationally renowned expert willing to do the work at no cost.
“I’m about 25 percent on that,” Chase said.
The murder occurred two years before Chase was born. But, he said, it has always interested him.
Patten said the department would use whatever resources can be spared.
“Frankly, we’re too busy to dedicate a lot of resources to it,” he said. “But a lot of guys do stuff on their own time to try to get things done.”
Other Salem cold cases William Dobens, 55, found with 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.