Indianapolis News and HeadlinesIndianapolis Local NewsIndianapolis Crime News


Coroner: Remains found 40 years ago in Newton County are a Chicago teen

Case draws attention to effort find names for the hundreds of remains in the state that are still unidentified, officials say.
Keith Lavell Bibbs
Posted at 5:45 PM, Sep 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-07 17:45:06-04

NEWTON COUNTY — Keith Lavell Bibbs is finally home.

For 40 years, the remains of this teen from Chicago were known only as Adam Doe.

Keith, 16, was found in a shallow grave in an abandoned Newton County farm in October 1983. He was alongside the remains of three other young men. They were all victims of serial killer Larry Eyler.

Keith Lavell Bibbs.jpg
Keith Lavell Bibbs

"Oh, we know he's an Eyler victim," Newton County Coroner Scott McCord said. "He was buried with all of the others. And Larry Eyler actually confessed to it, but he didn't remember the names."

Victims of the Highway Killer

Eyler, who became known as the "highway killer," confessed to killing more than 20 men and boys before he died on Death Row in an Illinois prison in 1994.

Two of the men found at the farm, Michael Bauer, 22, and John Bartlett, 19, were identified early in the investigation. The others were given the names Adam Doe and Brad Doe.

Brad Doe was identified in April 2021 as John Ingram Brandenburg Jr., 19, McCord said.

Genealogy investigators

McCord said the break that led to Adam Doe’s real name came in early July thanks to an investigator with the non-profit DNA Doe Project. The organization uses volunteer genealogists to help identify victims of cold cases.

The investigator traced multiple generations through a genealogy DNA database and found a living cousin, McCord said. Together, McCord said they called the cousin.

Scott McCord.jpg
Newton County Coroner Scott McCord

The man told them he was 10 years old when his cousin went missing, McCord said. The man was born in 1973 and would have been 10 when Adam Doe was found on the Newton County farm.

"Literally everything he told us about him just matched," McCord said. “I mean, literally the hairs on the back of our necks were standing up on end.”

The next day, McCord said he traveled to Chicago to meet the cousin and another man who the cousin believed could be Adam Doe’s brother.

“When we pulled up, not only was it him and the brother, it was the whole family. The whole family was there,” McCord said.

McCord collected a DNA swab from the potential brother and dropped it off at the Indiana State Police lab in Lowell, he said.

The DNA matched.

On July 21, McCord said Adam Doe officially became Keith Lavell Bibbs.

Keith Lavell Bibbs

READ MORE | Herb Baumeister’s killing field and the new effort to identify his victims: Forgotten at Fox Hollow

Keith had his name back.

Days later, McCord made another trip to Chicago.

"My wife and I took Keith home," McCord said. "We were invited to stay for the funeral and then invited for the after-funeral dinner, so we got to meet all of the family."

McCord did not share the family’s information because they asked for privacy. Despite their shock and grief, he said they were grateful to finally know what happened to Keith.

"It's unbelievably satisfying, knowing that they're home and to get to get to go out and meet the families," McCord said.

"That has been the most rewarding part of this whole thing. That's what keeps me motivated now."

Identify Indiana Initiative

McCord is one of the leaders of a statewide effort to help coroners and law enforcement across Indiana use similar methods to solve cold cases in their communities.

He's the case coordinator for the Identify Indiana Initiative, a partnership with the University of Indianapolis and the Indiana State Police that will help get DNA tests on remains of unidentified victims.

"We're trying to get the various coroner's offices, police departments and universities to let us know what human remains they have," McCord said. "We need to get them cataloged, and then we need to get them into the system."

Krista Latham, director of the University of Indianapolis's Human Identification Center, launched the Identify Indiana Initiative about a decade ago.

Latham and McCord believe the remains of hundreds of unidentified victims are in storage, or in graves, throughout the state and could be tested with modern DNA methods.

Krista Latham.JPG
Krista Latham, director of University of Indianapolis's Human Identification Center

"Many of our cold cases are from the '70s, '80s, early '90s, before DNA was traditionally used on every case," Latham said. "So having that partnership with the Indiana State Police lab that can do those DNA samples is instrumental in order to make those identifications."

WATCH | A playlist of archival footage from the 1980s and 90s detailing the crimes of Eyler and Herbert Baumeister

The initiative is still seeking grants and other funding sources in order to keep the services free for the local coroners and police agencies.

"We just want the coroners in the state of Indiana to know that we exist, and that we're here to help them with these cases and that we're not going to be charging them for this," Latham said. "We believe very strongly in getting all of the unidentified people in the state of Indiana identified."

Most importantly, Latham said, these yet-to-be-identified people and their loved ones deserve closure.

"We look at them as being almost forgotten in life and being forgotten in death," Latham said. "It is very important to make sure we're getting the missing persons reports, (that) we have the family reference samples, we have everything that we need in order to return these individuals back to their families."

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on Twitter: @vicryc.