JASPER COUNTY, Ind — The body of a Peru, Indiana man has been identified, nearly 40 years after he died at the hands of a serial killer.
Jasper County Coroner Andrew Boersma announced Monday that remains found near Rensselaer in Oct. 1983 are those of 19-year-old William Joseph "Bill" Lewis. A forensics company in Massachusetts, Redgrave Research Forensic Services, made the identification.
Convicted serial killer Larry William Eyler confessed to his attorney in 1994 that he had killed Lewis, who was referred to as "Jasper County John Doe" since his remains were discovered 38 years ago, along with 20 other young men or boys. Eyler said he had picked Lewis up on US 41 near Vincennes, where the young man was hitchhiking, on Nov. 20, 1982.
According to the research company, Eyler said he offered Lewis beer and Placidyl, a sleeping pill, as they drove north. Once they reached Jasper County, Lewis was reportedly "semiconscious."
Nearly a year later, a man discovered what he believed to be human remains while setting fox traps in a field. He notified police, who discovered 30 bone fragments scattered across the property.
The coroner's office determined the victim was a white male between the ages of 18-26 years old, with shoulder-length reddish brown hair. The man appeared to have previously broken his left femur and several pieces of dental evidence, including caps and fillings, were identified in the victim's mouth. Clothes were collected from the area, along with a Zippo lighter with the name "Arlene" engraved on the side.
Despite all of the clues identified by the coroner, the victim's description didn't match any missing persons reports and no one stepped forward to identify the man.
Eyler, who was a handyman who worked in Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Chicago, was sentenced to death for the murder of 15-year-old Danny Bridges. He died in prison on March 6, 1994.
Two days after he died, Eyler's attorney announced her client had confessed to 22 killings, including Lewis.
Because Eyler often targeted men within the gay community, Redgrave Research investigated the remains under the Trans Doe Task Force/LAMMP and assigned an all-LGBTQ+ team to the case.
In the years after the discovery of Lewis's remains, police officer Paul Ricker, who was the first officer on the scene after the remains were discovered, and other first responders raised money for a gravestone for "John Doe" at the Sayler Makeever Cemetery in Rensselaer.
Lewis's remains will now be moved to be buried next to his father.
(NOTE: The video below is from a 2013 story.)