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CANADA SEPTIC TANK SAM: M, 26-32, found in septic tank in Tofield, Alberta - 13 April 1977

Discussion in 'Unidentified 1900 to 1979' started by Scorpio, Sep 15, 2018.

  1. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2018
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  2. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member


    Date of Discovery: April 13, 1977
    Location of Discovery: Tofield, Alberta, Canada
    Estimated Date of Death: Months prior
    State of Remains: Not recognizable - Decomposing/putrefaction
    Cause of Death: Homicide

    Physical Description
    Estimated Age: 26-40 years old
    Race: Native American with possible Caucasian admixture
    Sex: Male
    Height: 5'5" to 5'7" or 168cm
    Weight: 145-165 lbs. or 70kg
    Hair Color: Brown
    Eye Color: Unknown
    Distinguishing Marks/Features: Medium build. Right-handed. He likely suffered an illness around the age of five.

    Dentals: Available. He all of his teeth, some fillings, and noticeable recent dental work.
    Fingerprints:Not available.
    DNA: Available.

    Clothing & Personal Items
    Clothing: Blue Levi work shirt with snap buttons, gray T-shirt, blue jeans, gray wool socks, brown imitation Wallabee shoes.
    Jewelry: Unknown
    Additional Personal Items: Unknown

    Circumstances of Discovery
    Residents searching an abandoned 1.8-metre-deep septic tank to retrieve a pump discovered the victim's decomposing remains. The victim had been rolled up in a yellow bedsheet tied with nylon rope and thrown head-first into the septic tank.

    An autopsy revealed that he had been shot several times, burned with a blowtorch and cigarettes, beaten, and sexually mutilated. His body was then covered in limestone.

    Police suspect the killer(s) was familiar with the area given the rural location of the abandoned and derelict property.

    Based upon the victim's clothing, it is suspected that he was a farm laborer or construction worker and was likely not from Alberta. He was nicknamed "Septic Tank Sam" by investigators and laid to rest in an unmarked, pauper's grave in an Edmonton Cemetery.
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  3. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member


    Additional reconstruction

    Sam was found in a 1.8 meter deep septic tank on an abandoned farm house, 13km west of Tofield, by owners of the property who had been searching the old septic tank for a pump. Investigating officers described his death as one of the most vindictive and sadistic crimes that they had ever encountered.

    According to the autopsy, he had been tied up and beaten while his body had been repeatedly burned using a small butane blowtorch and cigarettes. He had also been sexually mutilated before he was finally shot in the head and chest. He was then rolled up in a yellow bed-sheet tied with nylon rope and dumped head first into the septic tank, which had been partially filled with water.

    The killer (or killers) then dumped limestone into the tank in order to dissolve the body and speed up the rate of decomposition. However, unbeknownst to them, when quicklime is combined with water, only a small degree of superficial burning will occur with a large amount of body tissue becoming dried out, resulting in the body being relatively well-preserved for the time it had spent in the tank. Even so, the remains were so badly mutilated that it took an Edmonton medical examiner months to determine whether the remains were male or female.

    Sam still had all of his teeth, some fillings, and had signs of recent dental work. Medical examiners sent dental records to over 800 dental practitioners in the Alberta area- even having them published in Canadian dental magazines and nationwide bulletins- but no leads as to his identity were uncovered. He was laid to rest in an unmarked pauper's grave in an Edmonton Cemetery.

    His body was exhumed in 1979, and a forensic pathologist named Dr. Clyde Snow from Oklahoma was brought in to reconstruct the skull in order to help with identification. Dr. Snow took numerous measurements of his skull and bones, and input the information into a computer program, which indicated that Sam was likely of aboriginal heritage and approximately 35 years old, deputing the original claim by the medical examiner that he had been a 28 year old Caucasian man. DNA samples were taken, and facial reconstructions were posted in various newspapers around the country.

    The investigators believe that he may have been transient, a migrant worker, or otherwise not a long term resident of Alberta. Based upon his clothing, he is suspected to have been a construction worker or farm laborer. It is likely that his killer/s knew the area well and chose the remote location in the belief that the body would not be found for a very long time. No evidence was found to suggest that he was murdered on the property itself. Investigation is still ongoing.
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  4. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member


    Could new national DNA database provide a break in one of Alberta's most gruesome cold cases?

    Septic Tank Sam lies in an unmarked grave in an Edmonton cemetery, his identity no less a mystery then when his tortured body was pulled from a rural septic tank on a spring day in 1977.

    But 40 years after Sam met his grisly end, cold case investigators hope a new national DNA database will give fresh leads on who he was — and who killed him. Set to launch in 2018, the RCMP’s national children and missing persons unidentified remains database will allow investigators to compare DNA from unidentified human remains to DNA from living relatives who offer a sample in hopes of finding answers about a missing loved one.

    Staff Sgt. Jason Zazulak, with the Alberta RCMP’s historical homicide unit, said the chances the database will yield a break in the case are slim. But the prospect is still exciting.

    “We knew about DNA technology from our friends in the lab,” he said. “What (law enforcement) had to do was build the proper legal framework so those (samples) could be used and compared. It’s very exciting to be on the brink of that happening.”

    A brutal death
    Septic Tank Sam’s remains were discovered on April 13, 1977, in a septic tank on an abandoned farm near the small town of Tofield, around 70 km east of Edmonton.

    Charlie McLeod, a farmer in the area, found a brown shoe attached to a leg sticking out of the muck while searching for a pump in the tank, a Journal article said. Officers arrived on scene and used ice cream pails to scoop the gooey liquid from the tank, uncovering remains that were so decomposed it took medical examiners months to determine whether they were looking at a man or a woman. Eventually, police gave him his alliterative nickname.

    An autopsy later revealed horrific details of the man’s death. The victim had been beaten, tortured, burned, sexually mutilated and shot before being dumped head-first into the tank and covered with lime. Investigators initially believed he was around 28 years old and had been in the tank for as long as a year.

    The case, which has generated thousands of tips but few breakthroughs, continues to captivate Albertans. This summer, a thread on the social media site Reddit spawned more than 150 comments and dozens of theories. Some suggested the victim could have been killed in retribution for a horrible crime, such as child molestation. Others said the killer must have been local to know the location of the abandoned tank.

    Previous advances in DNA tech haven’t yielded much
    DNA samples weren’t taken from the remains until “significantly down the road,” said Zazulak, after the advent of DNA fingerprinting. “Fortunately, DNA is pretty robust — if they’re taking it out of an ancient woolly mammoth, under certain conditions DNA is still there,” he said.

    In 2014, the federal government passed legislation allowing RCMP to create a DNA-based missing persons index. The legislation was named Lindsey’s Law in honour of Lindsey Nicholls, a 14-year-old girl who disappeared in British Columbia in 1993. The database was supposed to launch this year, but was delayed.

    Zazulak said when the database comes online, investigators will be able to solicit DNA from people who have lost a loved one and match it against unidentified human remains.

    “What we’ll be able to do is check that against a database of people who were giving voluntary samples, knowing that they have a missing loved one or family member,” Zazulak said, adding the DNA can only be used to test against unidentified remains. “The technicians and scientists involved with this can give you a probability that the people were related.”

    Still, the likelihood a curious family member would offer up DNA after 40 years is low. And each advance in DNA technology has been met with similar hopes — in 2001, the Edmonton Sun ran a story under the headline “Police closing in on Septic Tank Sam’s ID.”

    Retired RCMP Sgt. Ed Lammerts, one of the first Mounties on the scene after the body was discovered, is doubtful Septic Tank Sam will ever be identified. Now 76, Lammerts said the force has probably spent $1 million on the case, including sending Sam’s dental records to dentists across Canada.

    He said the last best hope Septic Tank Sam will be identified is a guilty conscience. “Assuming the guilty people were in their early 20s, the only thing we can hope for is that just before they pass away they tell a priest or something,” he said.
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  5. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member

    Cyril Chan with his clay reconstruction of Septic Tank Sam, an unidentified man who was slain near Tofield in 1977. Taken in 2000, Chan was with the medical examiner’s office at the time. Greg Southam /
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  6. Scorpio

    Scorpio Bronze Member

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