Before police can catch killer, they need to ID 1987 murder victim

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Police Seek ID of 1987 Murder Victim

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — Who is he?

That question needs to be answered before Smithfield Police can even begin to answer the second question.

Who killed him?

On June 18, 1987, boaters saw something floating in Stump Pond. They got out of the pond and drove across the street.

Smithfield Police Detective Gregg Catlow’s dad was the first investigator on scene before a body was pulled from the water.

“He was wrapped in chicken wire and tied with coax cable and tied down with barbell weights and rocks,” Catlow recalled.

There was no way to identify the body. The man didn’t match any missing persons reports and his DNA and fingerprints came back without a match.

“I think the hope was, at the time, eventually somebody would come forward and identify this person as their family member but it never happened,” Catlow said.

Police have pursued every lead they can think to investigate.

“This was a very brutal murder,” Catlow added. “That’s a tough way to die. They really wanted him dead and wanted to make sure he wasn’t found.”

In years past, DNA provided no help unless there was a match in the database. But now, DNA testing is far more advanced. Catlow hopes new tests can connect the victim to family members.

“That’s going to open up a whole – if it’s DNA that does that – that’s going to open up a whole new avenue of investigation for us,” he said.

Another avenue is the public. Catlow has added the case to a deck of cold case playing cards. Each card details an unsolved homicide or missing persons case in Rhode Island. This victim is the jack of clubs.

Catlow hopes anyone with information will call 1-877-RI-SOLVE.

He believes before he can find a killer, he must find a name.

“We don’t want this person to be forgotten,” Catlow said. “We don’t even know his name and we need to give him his name back.”

More Stories: The Cold Case Cards »

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