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Florida investigators have positively identified a suspected victim of the "Hog Trail Murders" serial killer, 27 years after the victim’s unclothed body was found in a wooded area of Port Charlotte.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victim as Gerald (Jerry) Lombard, a Massachusetts man known to his family as being “a bit of a drifter,” according to a statement from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators believe Lombard was one of five victims linked to convicted killer Daniel O. Conahan, known as the suspected “Hog Trail Murders" serial killer.
For nearly three decades, Lombard was known simply as “John Doe #1” after his body was discovered on Feb. 1, 1994 in a wooded area by construction workers.
The partially decomposed body was unclothed, with no identification and few teeth, making it difficult for investigators at the time to determine the man’s identity, according to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
Four other bodies were found in North Port and areas of Charlotte County in the years that followed.
“The bodies were all found in similar desolate locations, unclothed, with genital mutilation,” investigators said. “The evidence suggests one killer is responsible for these crimes.”
Two of the bodies discovered in 1996 in northern Charlotte County were later identified as Kenny Smith and Richard Montgomery and were found just 2,600 feet from where Lombard’s body had been discovered.
Investigators launched a task force and ultimately identified Conahan as a “viable suspect in these serial killings,” authorities said.
Conahan was identified, in part, after an inmate told a Department of Corrections officer that he knew who was responsible for the slayings after his own harrowing escape from a man who had been asking men to go into the woods and pose nude for money.
The witness agreed and got into the man’s vehicle, but it got stuck in a densely wooded area. As the witness was sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, while the suspect pushed from behind, he noticed a tarp, rope and knife sitting in the backseat.
“It was at that time the man pressed the gas and took off,” authorities said.
They discovered that the vehicle was later reported missing by Conahan. He was arrested and ultimately convicted of Montgomery’s murder.
Investigators said Conahan, who is currently sitting on death row in the Florida State Prison, is also considered a suspect in Lombard’s murder.
For years, investigators tried to positively identify Lombard’s remains, submitting a tooth from the remains for DNA analysis but there were initially no hits in investigative databases.
In January of 2020, investigators contacted the FBI to determine whether the sample would be suitable for forensic genetic genealogy analysis.
The cold case team learned late that year that there was enough data available to conduct genealogy searches and authorities at the FBI were ultimately able to use data available in family genealogy websites to identify potential relatives of “John Doe #1.”
“After contacting the family, it was determined that this was a large family of seventeen siblings and one of the brothers, Gerald (Jerry) Lombard had not been seen or heard from since approximately 1991 or 1992,” investigators said.
Lombard, who grew up in Massachusetts, was described by his family as “a bit of a drifter.” Family members said it wasn’t unusual for him to “disappear for long periods of time,” authorities said.
Investigators gathered DNA samples from a sister, brother and son of Lombard and found a “positive match” between Lombard and his son, confirming the identity.
Investigators are asking that anyone with information about Lombard or Conahan to contact authorities at (941) 639-2101.
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