Investigators have identified a body found last May in a rusting steel barrel in a wooded area outside Council Bluffs. Pottawatamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker this (Wednesday) morning said they’re certain it’s the body of Lois Tomich a woman who went missing more than two decades ago.
Lois disappeared almost exactly 23 years ago, reported missing in November 1983. At the time she was a 28-year-old divorced mother of a little daughter, and today that daughter’s 28 years old and living in Council Bluffs. The woman’s maiden name was Lois Fraissinet, the sheriff says.
Sheriff Danker says the body was found by accident last spring, just north of Council Bluffs, it was on city property, in an area used as a “tree dump.” A couple of mushroom hunters found the body.
The Sheriff says the barrel looked like it had been underwater at times, as the barrel was rusty. Inside there was a little clothing but only skeletal remains.
Normally investigators will have a bit of tissue tested for what’s called “nuclear DNA” to try and identify a victim, but these remains were too decomposed to provide that material.
They had only the skeletal remains, so technicians at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Forensic Science Lab used mitochondrial D-N-A taken from the bones. It’s one of only four labs in the country that can do it, and he says this was one of the first cases in which the lab’s been able to make identification of a body using this technique.
The sheriff says they aren’t closing the file on this old case. He says it’s definitely a murder, though “We have 23 years against us, which makes it tough.” Still, having the woman’s identity may spur somebody to remember things about the case, and Danker says he’ll do everything he can to find out who killed her.