Marshall County investigators now have a name to go with the mystery of a headless body, John Doe 970400317, discovered 26 years ago.
In a press conference Wednesday, Sheriff Phil Sims said DNA testing has moved the investigation into a new phase – discovering how the body of a young man was found roughly 2,000 miles away from his home, and who was responsible for his death.
“Now we have an identity that we can backtrack,” Sims said. “That’s huge, but at the same time, it just makes us work harder.”
A father and his two sons stumbled onto a body in a remote, dry creek bed near the Morgan County line off Eagle Rock Road on April 15, 1997. The body was a white male, but his head, hands and feet had been removed to deliberately obscure his identity.
The man also had his heart and spleen removed, leading investigators to believe the two organs may have had evidence. Forensics revealed the cause of death as sharp edge trauma.
There is no way of knowing how long the man had been dead, but investigators believe it was placed in the ditch, which was occasionally prone to flooding and not within sight of any houses.
Sims said the man’s name was Jefferey Douglas Kimzy, 20, of Santa Barbara, Calif.
His name was discovered through the work Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based company that has worked with law enforcement on several cases.
At a similar press conference in 2021, Sims shared a computer sketch of what the man may have looked like.
Based on its testing, Parabon said at the time that the man was probably between the ages of 20 and 28, of North European ancestry, with a light-to-fair complexion, blue eyes, brownish blond hair and a few freckles.
By late August 2022, Parabon had located a family match in Santa Barbara, as well as a close relative in Madison, Tenn. Within a month, an investigator collected DNA samples from Kimzy’s parents, who were still alive. A few weeks later testing determined that the body was Kimzy’s.
Sims said that a missing person report may never have been filed on Kimzy. However, investigators have persons of interest in the case, he said, and are now using DNA information gathered at the time from the scene.
The press conference was a visual illustration of how long the case has simmered in the minds of investigators, as more than a dozen law enforcement officers filed in for the announcement, some retired, many of whom had worked on the case.
“It’s something we talk about,” Sims said. “Cases like this stick with you throughout your career. It’s never been far from our minds. It’ll eat at you for a long time.”
Investigators are now asking anyone who may have known Kimzy at that time to contact the sheriff’s office at (256) 582-2034.
“We hope that the public comes forward with more information,” Marshall County District Attorney Jennifer Bray said. “We are eager to hold accountable the person that’s responsible for the homicide of this person.”