Investigators working to identify a boy found dead in Keene Creek Reservoir 45 years ago have dipped back into old case files while they await results from new forensic technology.
In August, a Jackson County Sheriff's Department team exhumed the toddler, whom a fisherman had pulled from the reservoir in the hills east of Ashland in July 1963, from an unmarked grave at Hillcrest Memorial Park.
After discovering the case in a box of old files last year, investigators decided to turn to technology such as DNA testing and facial reconstruction from the skull to see whether they could give the boy, thought to be about 2, a proper burial under his own name. They also hoped someone might come forward with new details in the old case.
Jeanne McLaughlin, a forensic anthropologist from Lane County, has examined the remains and is preparing a report on what the tiny body told her, Jackson County Sheriff's Department Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said.
She repaired the skull, carefully gluing in teeth and reattaching the jaw, to prepare it for experts at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Alexandria, Va.-based center creates three-dimensional models of facial features from old remains for investigators. That process can takes weeks or even months, Fagan said.
In the meantime, Jim Tattersall, the department's volunteer special investigator, has combed through the file again looking for loose ends.
"In reviewing the case, we have questions that it's unclear if they investigated in 1963," Fagan said.
He and Tattersall reiterate that the investigators of the day were thorough, tracking clues from Washington to California with letter-writing campaigns, telegrams and phone calls. While some tips generated sheets of notes and reports, others left no record. Perhaps pages were lost through the years or maybe the lack of information wasn't worth documenting.
"Those are leads we definitely need to follow," Fagan said.
One of those tips came from Erma Long, of Phoenix, in the days after the unidentified toddler was pulled from the reservoir, bundled in a blanket and quilt and wrapped with wire. She said she had cared for a little boy from June 6 to 29, 1963, then the child's father, John Augard, came to collect the child and take him to his parents' home in Cottage Grove. Investigators noted that discussions with Long "failed to reveal any definite similarities" between that boy and the found body.
However, the case files give no indication that anyone checked in Cottage Grove to confirm that the Augard boy was alive and well, so Tattersall would like to double check now.
A tip from Pauline Grant, of Medford, led to a similarly vague conclusion. Grant said she had cared for a little boy, Gaylen Earl Fish, from May 1962 until January 1963, and had last seen him in February or March 1963. She said the boy's mother was Geraldine "Gerry" Woods and his stepfather was Fred Klooster. His grandparents, Beulah and Richard White, lived in Jacksonville.
The case notes include no mention that detectives contacted any of those relatives. The only follow-up said that Gaylen had short blond hair, not a match with the dead child's longish, light-brown hair, and that Grant didn't recognize any of the clothing or blankets as Gaylen's.
The little boy pulled from the reservoir was wearing a red, long-sleeved pullover shirt with thin white stripes, gray corduroy trousers with an elastic waist and a buckle for size adjustments, anklet socks, white walker or learner shoes, and a cloth diaper fastened with blue diaper pins and covered with plastic pants.
An investigation in Idaho briefly intersected with the Keene Creek case in 1964, but the files here don't indicate what the detectives in either state ultimately found out.
The Kootenai (Idaho) County Sheriff's Department was investigating the death of a child in Worley, Idaho. The mother of that child, Enid Langworthy, told police that she previously had a child fall out of a high chair and die of a fractured skull in Oregon. Authorities in Idaho contacted their counterparts across Oregon to get details.
A Feb. 21, 1964, letter from the Jackson County sheriff back to Idaho notes that the Oregon State Bureau of Vital Statistics found no record of a Langworthy child having died in Oregon since 1951. The letter asks for any additional information to see whether Enid Langworthy could be linked to the boy found in the reservoir, a child who apparently had died in Oregon but didn't have a death certificate with a name on it.
No reply can be found in the case files, but investigators would still like to know that answer. Fagan said DNA tests on Langworthy family members could help make the determination.
DNA is the other lead investigators are chasing. A state law that went into effect in January requires police to collect DNA samples from relatives of missing people and submit them to a national database. The University of North Texas operates the Center for Human Identification, funded in part by the National Institute of Justice, to help that effort.
McLaughlin helped collect DNA from the boy's exhumed body and Tattersall hopes to track down families who could be a match and collect samples from them.
Anyone who knows anything about this case is asked to call the Sheriff's Department tip line at 774-8333. Tips can be anonymous.
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.