Man Found Burned And Decapitated In 1979 Finally Identified
3D illustration of a cold case file with a rubber stamp and the word solved. concept of successful police investigations
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The remains of a man found burned and decapitated 45 years ago have finally been identified thanks to advancements in DNA technology.

The remains have been identified as Joseph A. Caliva, who was 27 years old when he went missing. It is still unclear who killed him.

In 1979, a boy was riding his horse in the Chicago suburb Barrington Hills when he came across a horrific scene: the burned remains of a decapitated man, CBS News reported. Police responded that found the partially burned torso of an adult white male, the Barrington Hills Police Department (BHPD) said in a press release.

Former Barrington Hill Police Chief Al Schuld told WGN that he still remembered the day the remains were found.

“It was hard to recognize for one thing because it was burnt,” Schuld said. “I can still remember the smell. The upper torso, then the bottom part of the torso and then the legs were there but there were no hands or head or nothing like that. The whole area was checked but we never did find that.”

“It was like, oh my god, why would, how could somebody do that to a human being?” Schuld added.

Investigators determined that the man was killed somewhere else and brought to this location, and without any identifying characteristics, they could only label him as “John Doe.”

Last year, the BHPD sent the man’s DNA to Othram, a Texas-based lab that specializes in forensic DNA evidence and forensic genetic genealogy. Othram has been responsible for identifying victims in numerous cold cases over the past few years, including the identification of the Golden State Killer.


Othram developed a comprehensive DNA profile and genetic genealogists were able to use that profile to create a family tree using public DNA databases, like 23andMe. A relative of the deceased man, Linda Gressick, was identified as Caliva’s half-sister.

Gressick told investigators that she grew up in Chicago and that Caliva was a former Marine who was working for Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation department when he disappeared, CBS reported. She told WGN that she knew immediately why the BHPD was calling her.

“I said right away to the detective, ‘You found my brother, didn’t you?’” Gressick told the outlet.

“He was gone for about four days when we started to realize something was wrong, my dad started to realize something was wrong because he didn’t show up at work,” Gressick added. “It was four days past his paycheck, which would have been on the first.”

She said the family searched for Caliva but weren’t initially fearful that he was dead.

“I would say at least two or three weeks after he disappeared, they probably were holding out hope that he was staying with a friend or something like that because that was his nature,” she told WGN. “He might have stayed at a cousin’s house, or something. They probably held off and then finally filed a missing person’s report.”

Gressick provided investigators a DNA sample, which matched Caliva’s.

“It’s very unsettling,” Gressick said. “I thought I was ok with him being gone and I know everybody’s goal was closure. It seems like less closure now than when there was before I found out. I’m hoping to find out more about what happened and everything.”

Police are asking that anyone with information on this case contact the BHPD Investigations, and reference the case number 1979-2050.

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