POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities say they have finally identified a possible victim of an alleged serial killer thought to be responsible for a string of killings known as the “Hog Trail Murders.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office identified John Doe #1 as Gerald Lombard, a Massachusetts man who disappeared in the early 90s.
John Doe #1’s body was found badly decomposed in the woods near Wyandotte Avenue and Tulip Street in northern Charlotte County on Feb. 1, 1994. Detectives were unable to determine his identity or cause of death.
John Doe was considered to be a victim of the “Hog Trail Murders” in Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Between 1994 and 1997, four other men were found dead in similar desolate areas. Most were strangled, and their genitals were removed.
Daniel Conahan was long suspected of killing them men, but was only convicted of one murder. He was sentenced to death in 1997 for strangling 21-year-old Richard Montgomery of Punta Gorda.
Prosecutors said Conahan had targeted gay men and transients and would lure them into the woods so he could kill them.
In 2013, John Doe’s tooth was submitted to a lab for DNA testing. It took about seven years to process, but his DNA was uploaded to two databases and matched a number of other DNA samples, leading detectives to likely relatives.
Authorities said a woman believed to be John Doe’s niece had also submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com, which was likely how the match was made. In April and May, detectives took DNA samples from Lombard’s sister, brother and son and were able to verify his identity.
Investigators learned Lombard was one of 17 siblings, but his brothers and sisters had not heard from him since approximately 1991 or 1992.
“According to the family, Jerry was a bit of a drifter, and it was common for him to disappear for long periods of time,” the sheriff’s office said.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office’s cold case team is asking anyone who knew Lombard or may have seen him with Daniel Conahan to call detectives at 941-639-2101.