In 1994, on a cool morning in a wooded area of Port Charlotte, a body was found. Two hunters noticed buzzards circling in the area and decided to follow the birds. This led them to a partially decomposed body which is known as John Doe #1. The body was unclothed, with few teeth, and nothing to identify the victim. The cause of death is undetermined.
The body was sent to the medical examiner with hopes of a positive identification. During the autopsy, it was determined the victim was a male between 25-35 years of age and a surgical rod was discovered in the victims ankle due to a prior surgery. Investigators tracked down the manufacturer of the surgical pin but unfortunately the serial number was only linked to the certain hospitals who used instruments within the same lot number. Detectives issued subpoenas for any patient who received similar pins that matched the general description of John Doe who had the same type of surgery. After reaching out to every patient who had matched the description, it was verified that they were all alive and well. A viable lead, now goes cold.
It wasn’t until 1996 in the nearby City of North Port when a dog had discovered a skull that the case started to heat up. After a thorough search of the woods where the skull was found, more bodies were discovered. Could these victims be connected?
The bodies were all found in similar desolate locations, unclothed, with genital mutilation. The evidence suggests one killer is responsible for these crimes. A serial killer.
Cold Case Detective Mike Gandy, who at the time was the Lieutenant of the Major Crimes unit was tasked with leading the task force. It wasn’t long after the discovery of the additional bodies in North Port, when another skull was found by two Public Works employees in a desolate area in Port Charlotte. Investigators scoured the area to locate the rest of the remains and while doing so, another body was discovered. At this point, there are a total of 3 crime scenes, 5 bodies, within two different counties, and one serial killer.
John Doe # 5 gave investigators some insight into the homicides as this body showed ligature marks on multiple parts of his body. The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation. Investigators were able to identify the victim as 21 year old Richard Montgomery.
With this new information, investigators have new leads to solve these murders and identify the other victims. It was determined that the suspect targeted white males between the ages of 20-35, who were transient.
Detectives receive a tremendously insightful phone call from a lieutenant from The Department of Corrections. An inmate stated that he knew who was responsible for the murders and survived an encounter with him. The inmate shared that he was a drifter when a man came around asking men to go into the woods and pose nude for money. He agreed and while on the way into the woods, the suspect’s vehicle got stuck. The inmate was steering while the suspect was pushing the vehicle when he noticed the array of items in the back seat to include a tarp, rope, and knife. It was at that time the man pressed the gas and took off.
Detectives learned that the vehicle was reported stolen by a Daniel Conahan Jr. Surveillance was conducted on Conahan and his patterns tracked. Another man came forward who was currently serving time in an Ohio prison. He shared his terrifying run-in with Conahan. He was able to free himself from Conahan’s ties and escaped. Conahan was then identified by the victim. A search of the suspect’s home and other evidence links Conahan to the Richard Montgomery murder including a paint chip found on the victim matching that of the suspects car. Conahan was ultimately sentenced to death convicted of the murder of Richard Montgomery. Eventually two other victims were identified and Conahan remains the prime suspect.
In the past, there had been a clay model completed on John Doe #1 but with the help of Palm Beach County’s Forensic Imaging unit, an updated image utilizing new technology has been created. We are hopeful that the family of this man comes forward to identify him and to finally have closure.
” I have full faith in our Cold Case unit and am hopeful this man will be identified through the dedication and hard work of the team. They have a passion for justice and are not known for giving up, ” states Sheriff Prummell
The Cold Case unit is made up of Kurt Mehl, Mike Vogel, and Mike Gandy who have over a century of law enforcement experience combined.
If you recognize this man or someone similar in appearance please contact law enforcement. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office at 941-639-0013 or through our mobile app.