US cops discovered that a man believed to be the first victim of a Charlotte County serial killer was actually one of 19 siblings and he even had a son – yet he remained unidentified because none of them appears to have reported him missing.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, in the US, managed to identify Jerry Lombard after a cold case review that tracked down his family through painstaking detective work and a relative that had submitted DNA to a genealogy network, and then confirmed his identity through a DNA match with a brother and his son.
Police say he was born in Massachusetts on 30th of August, 1962. He lived in Lowell, Massachusetts and had a reputation with his family for disappearing for long periods of time.
The fact that nobody reported him missing is all the more remarkable because although one of his brothers died of natural causes, he still had 11 brothers and six sisters alive, and police also tracked down a son.
Asked why no one had raised the alarm about the victim’s disappearance sooner, Detective Gandy told Newsflash: “We didn’t have a missing person report.
”He was a bit of a vagabond. He would come and go and do lots of travelling for long periods of time. Possibly that had something to do with why he was not reported missing.”
The victim was found lying in the woods near Wyandotte Avenue and Tulip Street in northern Charlotte County on 1st of February 1994. Due to the state of the body, the victim could not be identified and the cause of death was undetermined. The authorities gave the victim a temporary name, calling him “John Doe #1”.
Over the next two years, more bodies were discovered in the woods approximately 2,600 feet (792 metres) away from the location of the first victim. The police concluded that these cases were similar in many ways and began investigating for a serial killer.
Daniel O. Conahan, 42 at the time, was identified as a viable suspect in these serial killings. Because the police were able to identify some of the later victims, Daniel Conahan was sentenced to death for the murder of one of the identified suspects. He is currently on death row in Florida State Penitentiary.
Because the first victim John Doe #1 was still not identified at the time, Conahan was only considered a suspect in this case.
Over the years, all of the attempts made by the police to identify John Doe #1 ended unsuccessfully.
In recent years, the Cold Case Team decided to use the available genealogy resources in hopes that they will finally be able to identify the victim known as John Doe #1.
Explaining how they cracked the case, Detective Mike Vogel said: “We did a number of things to try to get Mr Lombard identified, starting back when he was actually found. We had a clay model, a facial reconstruction of what he might look like. Nothing turned up. In 2020, we had another law enforcement agency on the West Coast do an updated, digital likeness, which provided us with a much more accurate appearance of what our unidentified person might have looked like.”
But that yielded no results and so the detectives “decided that the best thing to do would be DNA testing. We contacted the FBI and they requested that we submit the DNA from our unidentified person.”
The DNA was submitted to the University of California Santa Cruz database. He explained that they worked on the DNA there and gave it to another lab in California.
Detective Vogel said: “They came up with enough DNA results to do a genetic search. That information was sent to a company called Gene by Gene. They uploaded it into all of the available DNA databases, where there was DNA from millions of people like ancestry.com and 23andMe, those types of databases.
“Fortunately for us, one of the sisters of our unidentified person had submitted her DNA to ancestry.com and so the FBI were able to match her DNA group to our unidentified person and then provided us with the last name of the family, along with a couple of contacts from Facebook and we were able to locate his living relatives.”
He added: “I contacted one of the sisters who put me in touch with her other siblings, and after a little bit of back and forth, we determined that they did in fact have a missing brother who had not been seen since 1991 and 1992.”
In April, the Cold Case Team was able to obtain DNA samples from a sister, a brother, and a son of Jerry Lombard which were sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Laboratory.
In May, the police received a report saying that the DNA sample from the son was a positive match to the DNA of John Doe #1, verifying the identity as Jerry Lombard.
The Cold Case Team is asking anyone who knew any information about Gerald Lombard to contact the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office as they attempt to put together details of his final days.