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Williams County Sheriff’s Office identifies John Doe from 1982

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 2:24 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A deceased man who's body went unidentified for 38 years in Williams County has finally been identified.

The Williams County Sheriff’s Office opened the cold case up six weeks ago, and just started forensic investigations when a family member from Montana came forward and helped solve the case.

After reading an article about a body being exhumed at the Riverside Cemetery in Williston Monday, a woman came forward and said the tattoos on the body were something her uncle Philip Peterson would've had.

"We were able to positively identify him through fingerprints. He'd never been reported as missing because his family thought he kind of just left," said Williams County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry.

Philip Peterson’s body was found on the Missouri River east of Williston on June 22, 1982. Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry says the family was happy they finally knew where their uncle was, and they didn’t give the Sheriff’s Office a lot of details about him.

"We didn't really get a very large profile of him; just that he was a fun guy and that he just left one day," added Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry.

The man's body will no longer have to lay in an unmarked grave, because the family is now deciding where he will permanently lay to rest.

The sheriff’s office says they are happy to have been able to get word out so quickly about the case. Detectives say they probably won’t be digging up any more cold cases, as this is the only one they’re aware of in the county.

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