A 55-year-old cold case is solved in Thermopolis, thanks to the hard work of the murder victim’s granddaughter. The woman from Des Moines, Iowa helped identify the remains that were found in a foot locker in the Wyoming town in 1992. Shelley Statler wants to honor Joseph Mulvaney, who was killed in 1962.
Thermopolis is a small central Wyoming community, known for its cowboys, hot springs, and dinosaur bones, i.e. fossils.
But the bones found in a trunk on this property in 1992 were human remains. John Lumley was the Hot Springs County sheriff then. He says he talked to the man who left the trunk in a shed in 1986. His name was John Morris aka David Tanner.
Lumley said, “He affirmed that he brought the trunk from state to state and moved it here and left it here.”
Lumley said he went to Texas to interview Morris about the remains. He felt Morris was a suspect in the victim’s murder. But, Morris claimed he didn’t know the trunk had bones in it, and without forensic evidence at the time, no charges were filed.
Wyoming’s crime lab used the victim’s skull to recreate an image of his face.
Then, 25 years after the bones were found, he got a call last month from Shelley Statler of Iowa.
He recalled, “I spent an hour and a half on the phone with Shelley in my initial time with her..”
Statler had read a newspaper article about the box with the bones. And, she had heard stories from her family. She found Wyoming’s crime lab recreation and made a collage comparing the image to her families’ pictures. She found a strong resemblance, and so did Lumley.
So he and Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jeremie Kraushaar asked Statler to get a DNA sample from her mother, Katherine. She did, and Wyoming’s crime lab compared the DNA to the bone fragments Kraushaar sent to them.
Khaushaar says he got an answer in late October:
He recalled, “He said this is the father of the DNA sample.”
Statler said she got the message on October 26th. Her mother was the daughter of the murdered man whose remains were found in Thermopolis 25 years ago. Statler confirmed her Grandfather’s name: Joseph Mulvaney.
Statler called to say her grandfather was a World War II veteran and had three young children when he died. She said she believes he was killed by his wife, her grandmother. She said her grandmother has passed.
She wants to bring her grandfather’s remains back to Iowa, to give him a proper military funeral.
Lumley said, “Totally gratified that there’s closure for a family.”
The Thermopolis cold case was featured in an early 90’s episode of the television show “Unsolved Mysteries”. The Sheriff’s office received more than 600 calls. But the tip that solved the mystery came from a woman who never saw the show’s episode about her grandfather.