A Wyoming resident finds human bones in a military footlocker.
In 1986, a long-time resident of Thermopolis, Wyoming, whom we will call Gabby, moved away. He left some of his belongings in a shed, including an old, locked trunk. He left the shed with a friend, Newell Sessions. Then, six years passed. Finally, Newell couldn’t stand the suspense another minute and opened the trunk. What he found, shocked him:
Newell’s wife told him he had to call the sheriff. Before he did, though, Newell felt obliged to contact Gabby. Gabby told Newell that he’d never even opened the footlocker. He thought he’d bought it at a garage sale. But according to Newell, when it came to the time and the place, Gabby’s memory failed him:
Newell Sessions contacted John Lumley, the sheriff of Hot Spring County. Right from the start, Sheriff Lumley was suspicious:
Two days later, the skull was examined by an x-ray machine. The tests revealed that a bullet was lodged in the skull. Now Sheriff Lumley thought he might have a murder case on his hands. He decided to have a chat with Gabby. But Gabby was unsure about the details. He said he might have bought the trunk in Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois, or maybe Oklahoma. It might have been as early as 1973, but maybe not. According to Gabby, he just wasn’t sure:
But Sheriff Lumley’s primary concern was not Gabby’s age:
On March 31, 1992, Sheriff Lumley turned the skeleton over to the Wyoming State Crime Lab in Cheyenne, in hopes that maybe the bones could tell him what Gabby could not. Sandra Mays was the lab technician that examined the skeleton:
In an effort to identify the victim, Sandra Mays created a three-dimensional facial reconstruction out of clay. Only the eyes and hair are guesswork. Otherwise, Sandra’s facial recreation should be a good likeness of the man who somehow got a bullet in his head, sometime after 1908.
But who was the man? How and why did he die? The old trunk appeared to have been used by someone in the U.S. Armed services between World War I and World War II. Perhaps the trunk, alone, holds the key to unraveling this bizarre mystery.
UPDATE: After 25 years, the work of the Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Office has brought this case to a close. In October 2017 a DNA sample was submitted by a woman who said that her father had been shot in the head sometime in 1960 by her uncle, and her father’s remains were placed in a trunk. The uncle transported the trunk to Wyoming, and then left it behind. The DNA sample was a 99% match to to the bones, which have now been identified as Joseph Mulvaney.