Body of Boscobel man identified almost 24 years later, thanks to new technology

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LANCASTER (WKOW) — The family of a Boscobel man was given closure when Grant County officials identified his remains decades after they were found.

The Coroner’s Office identified the body of Gale Joseph Byers, from Boscobel, almost 24 years after it was found in a  small wooded area off of Hwy 151 near Maryville Heights, according to a press release from the Grant County Coroner and Sheriff’s Offices issued Wednesday.

The body was too decomposed at the time for then Grant County Coroner Ron Sturmer and the FBI to take quality fingerprints. However, with the advent of new technologies and techniques, Phyllis Fuerstenberg, the county’s current coroner, reopened the case.

With the help of a new software program on fingerprint identification with the FBI, Fuerstenberg submitted  fingerprints and a database search identified Byers, who was 56-years-old at the time of his death.

At the time, a motorist having car problems found the body in October of 1995.

Authorities determined Byers died from a heart-related condition.

Grant County Sheriff Nate Dreckman had just been hired as a deputy at the time and responded to the scene.  He says there was little to go on beyond a make-shift camping set up.

“Clothing, a tent, but no identification, nothing that could identify him,”  Dreckman says.  “We spent the years afterwards constantly searching databases.”

Fuerstenberg, Grant County dispatchers and deputies worked together to find Byers’ family and tell them where he was buried — in a county-owned cemetery across from Orchard Manor as “John Doe.”

“The Grant County Sheriff’s Office and the Grant County Coroner’s Office would like to thank all the previous investigators and coroner who worked on the case attempting to identify Mr. Byers, in addition to the Martin-Schwartz Funeral Home who originally assisted in the burial in 1996.”

The Grant County Veteran’s Service Office is checking to see if benefits from Byers’ military service will cover the costs of a headstone.

Byers’ body, with the consent of his family, will remain where it is.

There will be a graveside service once a headstone with Byers’ name is on the gravesite. The sheriff’s office said Byer’s family plans to attend.

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