SALEM — It was a cold morning to try to crack a 43-year-old cold case.
A crowd of police officers, people from the state medical examiner’s office, Department of Public Works employees, vault company staff and others gathered around an unmarked grave in the back of Pine Grove Cemetery yesterday morning.
Dr. Jennie V. Duval, New Hampshire’s deputy chief medical examiner, was there, too, for the exhumation the remains of an unidentified homicide victim, whose bullet-riddled body was found in a drainage ditch beside Interstate 93 Aug. 7, 1969.
The man, believed to be between 28 and 40 years old, was never identified.
The exhumation yesterday was the start of what could be a very lengthy process to finally identify the victim and, perhaps, solve the crime.
Salem police Capt. James Chase, who is leading the effort to solve the cold case, was optimistic.
“It went a lot easier than anticipated,” he said yesterday.
While last week Chase was less optimistic about the possibility of a forensic artist doing a facial reconstruction of the victim, his hopes were higher yesterday.
“The remains looked like we might get some DNA,” he said, “and it looks we we can proceed with reconstruction of the face.”
Police will get some expert assistance with that.
Forensic artist Harvey Pratt, who helped solve the BTK case in Kansas, has offered his services — at no charge.
Dennis Rader was convicted of killing 10 people near Wichita, Kan., between 1974 and 1991. He was known by his signature, BTK, which stood for “Bind, Torture, Kill.”
Pratt also worked on cases involving the Green River Killer, Ted Bundy, the 1993 World Trade Center bombings and other high-profile cases.
He works out of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
His offer to help came about pretty simply.
“I reached out to Pratt through an email and he responded and was more than willing to help,” Chase said. “We’ve got one of the best guys in country. We hope he can recreate this guy’s face, and hope a family member or other relative will recognize him.”