Unidentified in Winneshiek CountyCourtesy Iowa Department of Public Safety
Skull reconstruction pictures indicate what the individual may have looked like. The pictures show the clothing the victim was wearing at the time of death.

Unidentified White Male

STATUS: Unidentified

AGE: Approx. 30 – 40

CASE NUMBER: Winneshiek County – 1986





DESCRIPTION: White male, 30-40 years of age, 5’6″ to 5’9″, 145 – 160 lbs., brown hair, medium build.

DETAILS: Skeletal remains found March 31, 1986, between hay bales at a farm site in Winneshiek County, Iowa. The individual may have been traveling from Ohio to California.

CLOTHING: Plaid white-tan-black pile-lined jacket (mackinaw type farmers or cowboys jacket) with a Sears-Roebuck Oakbrook Sportsman/Sportswear label, medium white-tan short sleeved terry cloth V-neck polo shirt (Wedgefield brand), blue Levi cords with 33-inch waist and ranger tag on back of pants, black socks, Fruit of the Loom jockey shorts size 30-32, extra-large blue windbreaker (Madison brand), and brown shoes, 3/4-inch high suede, size 6 or 9. Shoes are each 11-1/4 inches long.

POSSESSIONS: A one dollar bill, a pink blanket (Esmond brand), and a match book

Winneshiek County in Iowa

Winneshiek County in Iowa


DENTAL: Dental information / charting is available and entered.

INVESTIGATING AGENCY: Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office, 319-382-4268 and Winneshiek County Medical Examiner’s Office, 563-382-9671.

EXCLUSIONS: The following individuals have been ruled out as being this decedent:

  • Michael Limesand (DOB 1958)
  • Melvin Synder (DOB 1985)

Questions and comments may be addressed to:

Winneshiek County Medical Examiner’s Office — 563-382-9671



15 Responses to Unidentified White Male, Winneshiek County 1985

  1. Jeff Bentson says:

    The lack of any backpack or luggage suggests that he was either robbed, was staying with someone or had a motel room near by. My theory is that this man was likely drinking at a bar somewhere in the area and was being driven in a car by a man, woman or group of people and a disagreement ensued and he was asked to exit the vehicle. This was likely in the winter of 1985 (October to December) as his skeletal remains were found on March 31, 1986. They likely provided him with the blanket he was found with when they asked him to leave the vehicle. He may have tried to knock on the nearest farm house and either no one was home or do to the time of night they did not hear the knock and he sought shelter from the elements in the barn between the bales of hay. He then succumb to the elements and died.

  2. Carol Gottberg says:

    Could the young man be the missing paperboy Johnny Gosch. He bears a resemblance?

  3. Lee-Anne says:

    Is there a possibility that this is Harry Milligan from Albia, Iowa missing since 1984.

    • MikeD says:

      The height and the age doesn’t match too closely. I wonder why they haven’t officially ruled him out though.

  4. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Steven, I agree that matchbook might have been connected to a business in Ohio. I would think that if his remains had been found closer to Interstate 80, then maybe I might agree that he was heading towards California. But, he was way north of 80, unless he liked taking a round about to California.

    I wonder if something else not released might have led them to assume he was headed to California.

  5. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Mike, it appears that maybe some piece of clothing or maybe the matchbook, could have provided them to assume that he might be headed to California from Ohio
    The use of the term may, to means they assumed something
    Since, we don’t have the case report to see what gave them the idea he was headed to California.

    I might agree with the assumption, if he was found close to or near Interstate 80. He was off the beaten track. What bugs me that he appears not to have been reported missing. But then I was thinking about “The Buckskin Girl, that was found in Ohio, a number of years ago. She was finally identified through DNA Genealogy. Her mother never reported her missing.

    However, I was a police officer and detective, we would use the term, appears, especially describing an item. I worked on a number of reports in a VA hospital involving missing patient’s property. A patient would say they had a gold watch. I would check the inventory sheets from his E.R. admission and what the nurses wrote up on a form, when the patient got to the ward. It used to bug me that the nurses would use the words gold or whatever color watch or ring it was.

    That was one of my pet peeves. I had more issues on how they handled patient property when the patient went to surgery or was transferred to another unit. I was big on digging through medical records looking for answers to the questions I had.

    I have a few stories from two different VA hospitals that I worked at.

  6. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Mike, your comments are spot on, in regards to the DNA. However, the cost is a factor. I would assume that they would get a court order to exhume the remains. Then if approved the cost to dig him up and take the necessary samples.

    The other thing is that they could have sent the remains to the FBI lab in Washington. Where they would be logged in to their evidence system. Then they would taken across the street to the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History. There a forensic anthropologist would do a sort of autopsy, and possibly make some determinations.

    I came across an excellent book from 1992, about this by one of their people who trsined6under the guy who established the Body Farm. They have been doing this since the1930,s.

    However, it goes back to the financial costs.

    • Steven says:

      Unless the Iowa State Medical Examiner took DNA at the autopsy, there is no way to identify this person. Per the funeral home, the body was cremated and the remains were returned to Decorah for burial. The county provided a lot for the ashes, the funeral home placed a temporary marker: “Unknown” for the name, and “XXX-1986”. The autopsy determined he had been dead about a year when he was discovered, but since he was discovered in 1986 they used that date.

  7. MikeD says:

    Almost 35 years since this man’s estimated date of death. I wonder if there is any DNA available from his remains that could be added to a genealogy database just to see if there are any hits.

    I’ve always wondered what evidence there was that indicated to investigators that he may have been traveling from Ohio to California. How could that hurt the investigation if their reason was made public? Winneshiek county is pretty far from any major interstates where one would have attempted to hitchhike from if they were traveling across the country. Between hay bales would have been a good place to hide or sort of have shelter during the cold. I wish there was an address or GPS coordinates of the area where he was found. I’m wonder how far way from a highway he was. There are only a handful of highways in that county. Looking at weather in that area in April of 1985 I can see there were a number of days where it would have been below freezing. He may have succumbed to the elements.

    • Steven says:

      The pole barn he was found in is still on the farm. It is less than 100 yards off the west side of the Locust Road (W38), approximately 13 miles north of Decorah. On a related note, while doing family research photography in the Freeport Cemetery just outside Decorah today, I came across his grave. It has no marker other than the place keeper provided by the funeral home.

      • MIkeD says:

        He was found between hay bales inside a barn? I just always assumed he was found between hay bales left outside. You commonly see hay bales lined up on properties or on the edge of fields. Again, it’s just so out of the way for anyone bumming or hitchhiking to across the country. There also doesn’t seem to be any rails really in the area. That kind of rules out the common situation where it was someone who was riding the rails and decided to get off in that area to get supplies. I think many years ago when Iowa had a dedicated page for the unidentified they have more pictures available for this man. I think he had an old-school shaving kit and maybe the matchbook was what gave them the Ohio clue.

        • Steven says:

          It was an open pole barn, not a traditional enclosed 4 sided barn. Think of a really large carport, with round bales instead of vehicles.

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