LOCKPORT, IL – The Will County Coroner’s office announced on March 15, 2023, that a previously unidentified murder victim from 1980 was finally identified with the help of forensic genetic genealogy leads developed by Othram Inc.
This marks the fourth time this year that a cold case has been solved in Will County.
The victim’s remains were discovered in a wooden crate at the Lockport locks power plant in Will County on July 30, 1980. Due to advanced decomposition and the body being sealed in the crate, the victim’s identity remained unknown for more than four decades. Will County Sheriff investigators pursued numerous leads until the case eventually grew cold.
In 2008, the Will County Coroner established a part-time cold case unit, which consisted of two retired police detectives. In 2020, newly elected Coroner Laurie Summers allocated additional funding to prioritize the utilization of new emerging technologies, including forensic genetic genealogy techniques, in cold case investigations.
In 2021, the coroner’s office partnered with Othram Inc. to utilize their forensic genetic genealogy services to identify victims and suspects. Half of the funding for this particular case came from DNASolves.com, and the other half came from Will County. Skeletal standards were later sent to Othram for analysis, and a facial cranial reconstruction of the victim was created in November 2022 by Beth Buckholtz.
On February 16, 2023, Othram provided potential relatives of the victim, whom they believed was Webster Fisher, based on their analysis. Cold case investigators were able to contact the potential relatives and confirmed that Webster Fisher was likely the unidentified man. A DNA standard was obtained from a close relative and sent to Othram. Representatives of Othram confirmed that Webster Fisher was the unidentified man on March 15, 2023.
The Will County Coroner’s office is optimistic that this partnership and the utilization of new emerging technologies will lead to the resolution of more cold cases in the future.