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Remains of 19-year-old 'John Doe' found in 1983 in Jasper County identified

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Posted at 6:02 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 00:11:58-05

JASPER COUNTY — A man previously unidentified for years who was killed by serial killer Larry Eyler has been identified by a team from Massachusetts and the Jasper County coroner's office.

The skeletal remains of William Joseph "Bill" Lewis, 19, of Peru, were found on Oct. 15, 1983, on a private plot of land outside of Rensselaer, according to a press release. A man checking and setting fox traps found them.

In 1994, Eyler, who was already in prison, told his attorney he killed the "John Doe," later identified as Lewis, and 20 other young men and boys, according to the release. He said he picked them up one weekend in November 1982 along US 41 in the Vincennes area and drove to Jasper County. He wasn't able to provide any details or the identity of the victim.

Authorities at the time concluded he was responsible for Lewis' death based on his confession and produced a forensic sketch.

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Lewis remained unidentified until recently.

In January 2021, a student intern, Bryan Worters, at Redgrave Research Forensic Services approached the Jasper County Coroner's Office and asked to help.

Using DNA data uploaded to GEDmatch, a team of forensic genetic genealogists and student interns were able to identify Lewis.

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Lewis, who went by Bill, was born on Oct. 13, 1963, and was described by his siblings as a quiet person. He was a football player in high school, but withdrew from school after he broke his left leg.

Lewis was last seen by relatives in February 1982 in Texas attending a friend's funeral. He left after and returned to Indiana, but his family never saw him again and spent decades searching for him.

“I am very proud of how hard our genealogy team worked to find Bill’s name, and we are so glad to be able to help Bill get home to his family. We are humbled by their kindness.” Anthony Redgrave said.