Idaho Caves, Nature January 08, 2020
The Remains Of A Century-Old Body Found In An Idaho Cave Were Just Identified As An Infamous Escaped Outlaw
Idaho started off 2020 by making national headlines regarding a strange yet utterly fascinating story. The story regards a headless body that was discovered in a remote underground cave over 40 years ago that was only
just identified. It turns out this corpse was sitting in the cave for a LOT longer than experts originally thought, but that wasn’t the only surprising discovery. The body belonged to a man named Joseph Henry Loveless, an infamous escaped outlaw that was accused of murdering his own wife. This was definitely a strange way to start off the new year, but this story is one we’ll be talking about for decades to come.
Until recently, the identity of a headless corpse that was found in Idaho over 40 years ago was a complete and utter mystery. The recent discovery of who this body actually belongs to has turned out to be much stranger than anybody could have anticipated, and it's a story that will definitely go down in our state's wacky history.
It was 1979 when sheriff Earl Holden responded to a call about a suspicious burlap sack found in Civil Defense Cave, located in eastern Idaho just east of Dubois. Inside the sack was an entire human torso wearing a white shirt with blue stripes. The torso's hands and legs would be found later in 1991, but at the time the coroner determined that the body couldn't have died more than 10 years earlier due to the state of decomposition.
As we now know, the body had been lying in that cave for a lot longer than 10 years! The Idaho State University Anthropology Department took over the remains in 1997 and performed several excavations to find the rest of the body. The corpse's limbs were eventually recovered in the same cave, but the head was never found.
In March 2019, anthropologists at ISU teamed up with DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit organization that specializes in identifying Jane and John Does. Using a methodology known as genetic genealogy, DNA Doe Project pieces together a person's family history using DNA. Team leader Anthony Redgrave along with 14 volunteers spent thousands of hours researching John Doe's family tree, eventually narrowing it down to 250 "DNA cousins." This allowed them to make the conclusion that the body belonged to a man named Joseph Henry Loveless.
So, who exactly was Joseph Henry Loveless? It turns out he was a man with an infamous reputation. Born to Latter-day Saint pioneers, Loveless had multiple run-ins with the law during the early 1900s due to bootlegging. Loveless was notorious for escaping jail every time he was locked up, and he used multiple aliases throughout his lifetime to avoid capture. In May 1916, Loveless escalated his criminal acts by viciously murdering his own wife, Agnes Octavia Caldwell.
Loveless was arrested for the murder just days later (although they believed his name to be Walter Cairns at the time.) However, true to his reputation, he escaped jail again by cutting the bars with a saw he had hidden in his shoe. That was the last time anybody would see him. Loveless wouldn't be seen again until his headless, dismembered body was found in 1979.
We still don't know where his head might be or who might've killed him, but the fact that this body could be positively identified after so long is downright amazing. No photos of Loveless exist, but a composite was created of what he may have looked like using images of relatives and written descriptions. This is certainly a strange end to one of Idaho's most unusual mysteries, but that just makes it all the more interesting!
Wow! This story of the body that was found in an Idaho cave seems just too weird to be true. What do you think of such an amazing discovery? Let us know in the comments! It turns out the Gem State is full of wacky tales like this one and you can discover more when you check out
The 10 Weirdest And Strangest Things That Have Ever Happened In Idaho.