Update: The Fort Myers Eight

Date Published 06.09.07
I wrote here about the discovery in March of eight human skeletons in a wooded area of Fort Myers. I didn't have any solid information on gender, but I guessed the skeletons would be men. I theorized police had stumbled upon the dumping ground of Daniel Conahan, who was suspected of killing young men and leaving them in wooded areas in Charlotte County during the 1990s. Conahan was convicted of only one murder, in 1999, and remains imprisoned.

17-1-Daniel-Conahan-prison-.jpg
Daniel Conahan

A recent news conference on the skeletons suggests Conahan is indeed the culprit. Conahan once admitted to investigators that he targeted male hitchhikers on U.S. 41 from North Port to Fort Myers.

Hopefully this latest discovery will give some troubled families peace of mind.

Thanks to a True Crime Diary tipster for forwarding the link to this story in southwest Florida's The News-Press.

Note that Detective Sgt. Jennifer Soto says that they believe the public is not in any immediate danger, and that the remains are related to past activity. That kind of confidence only comes from knowing your prime suspect is behind bars.

Police: Bones found may be of homicide victims

By Ed Johnson
ejohnson@news-press.com
Originally posted on June 08, 2007

Fort Myers police said today they believe the skeletal remains found off Arcadia Street may have died as the result of criminal activity some time between 1980 and 2000.

But having said that, police Chief Hilton Daniels said no cause of death had been determined on any of the victims.

The remains were all white males between the ages of 18 and 49 years old, said Heather Walsh-Haney, a forensic anthropologist who examined the remains.

"We do not believe there is any immediate danger to the community, Detective Sgt. Jennifer Soto said. "If we find something that changes that we'll let you know."

Soto said police believe "this was all past related activity" that presented no danger to the public.

Police would not discuss the details of any post or peri-mortem trauma to the remains, but did describe past injuries the individuals had suffered in the hopes it could help to identify them.

The remains attracted national attention when they were discovered March 23 by an ecologist surveying a wooded tract for development.

Police initially found three skeletons, but searchers later found five others, all within a 50 yard radius, during a grid search.

Theories ranged from someone who had used the site for the improper disposal of remains to a serial killer's dump site.

The initial examination of the remains did not show any outward signs of foul play, Fort Myers police Lieutenant Brian Phillips said.

Likewise, weeks of digging and sifting the spots where bones were recovered did not result in any conclusive findings, Phillips said.

Crime scene technicians had hoped the dirt underneath the remains might have revealed spent bullets or ligature remains if the bodies had been homicide victims. That didn't happen, police said.

The absence of any clothing on the remains was also equivocal, authorities said. Clothing could be removed to make identification of a murder victim more difficult, but it could also be done because the bodies had been held in a morgue before being dropped in the woods.

Police Chief Hilton Daniels said the department's first step will be to identify the bodies.

"After that we can move forward with a theory, " he said. "We have a lot of theories right now. We have not ruled out a funeral home having dumped these bodies and we have not ruled out a serial killer. After we identify these people we'll have a better idea.

Soto said police will not discuss how they believe the victims died in order to "maintain the integrity of the investigation."

Most of the remains were in good dental and skeletal heath, the experts said.

 

A sidebar on the victims accompanied the story:

POLICE RELEASE DESCRIPTIONS

As Fort Myers police try to identify the victims whose remains were found in a wooded area off Arcadia Street on March 23, they're hoping the information gathered by a forensic anthropologist and forensic dentist will be a help.

The remains are all those of white men between the ages of 18 and 49, said Heather Walsh-Haney, a forensic anthropologist from Florida Gulf Coast University, who police called into the case.

Here are descriptions that family members might recognize:

Individual #1
Age: Late 20's to early 40's, height 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, in life he had sustained injuries to his legs, forearm and chest. He has three wisdom teeth and has not had current dental care. He could have lived a transient lifestyle.

Individual #2
Age: 20's to 30's, height 5 feet 6inches to six feet tall. This person had healed fractures to his right fibula, nose and collarbone. He does not have wisdom teeth and he may have had braces.

Individual #3
Age: 20's to 30's, height 5 feet seven inches to 6 feet 3 inches, very good dental care with all four wisdom teeth.

Individual #4
Age: 20's to 30's, height 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, with some dental fillings and all four wisdom teeth intact.

Individual #5
Age: 18 to early 20's, height 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet four inches tall, excellent dental care. One of this individual's wisdom teeth were removed. The other three remain.

Individual #6

Age: late 20's to early 40's, height 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall. This individual could have complained of hip or back problems. All four wisdom teeth are present and there are dental fillings in other teeth.

Individual #7
White male, possibly Hispanic, age 20's to 30's, height 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 3 inches. This individual still has all four wisdom teeth. He fractured his right wrist in life.

Individual #8
Age: 20's to 30's, height 5 feet six inches to 6 feet tall, with god dental work and all four wisdom teeth intact. He might have been an athlete, weight lifter, or had a job that required heavy lifting.

An examination of previous x-rays of injuries and dental charts could identify the remains, police said.

Anyone with information can call police at 1-877-667-1296, or 239-339-4008. Messages can also be sent to www.tipline@fmpolice.com.

 



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