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A murder victim found in Florida 35 years ago has now been identified, all thanks to an engraving on his belt buckle.
In January 1985, a decaying body was discovered on the outskirts of Pensacola. The victim had been dead for at least eight months and was wearing a belt buckle hand-engraved with the letters “W. T.”, according to case details uploaded by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
For the next 35 years, the victim’s identity remained a mystery, referred to only as “John Doe” in the case details, which were uploaded to the county cold case unit’s website.
But in 2018, the department received a call from a tipster whose uncle had been missing since 1983, according to a press release last week by the sheriff’s office. The man, William Thompson, had last called his mother from an unknown location on Pensacola Beach. He was 48 years old at the time.
Thompson’s family had never filed a missing person’s report with the county, but the tipster had seen the John Doe case on the sheriff’s website, according to the release. The tipster wondered whether the letters on the belt buckle might have stood for their uncle’s name.
Authorities had the person send in a DNA sample, and it matched their hunch: 35 years after its discovery, the mysterious corpse had been identified as William Thompson.
“This is another example of the never-ending quest for justice. While we haven’t yet solved the homicide, it is a step forward and can give the family some closure until the case is solved,” Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said in the press release.
Thompson’s case is being actively investigated as a homicide, according to the release.
If Thompson was alive today, he would be 85 years old.
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