ⓘ Joseph Henry Loveless, also known as Charles Smith, Walter Currans, and Walter Cairns, was an American bootlegger and accused murderer. In 1916, he allegedly es ..


ⓘ Joseph Henry Loveless

Joseph Henry Loveless, also known as Charles Smith, Walter Currans, and Walter Cairns, was an American bootlegger and accused murderer. In 1916, he allegedly escaped from jail with a sawblade he had hidden in his shoe, a feat he would repeat several months after being accused of murdering his common-law wife. Lovelesss torso was found stuffed in a sack in an Idaho cave in 1979. The body was not positively identified until 2019 with the help of the DNA Doe Project, which noted that the identification was the oldest one they had ever made. The positive identification was made using forensic genealogy.


1. Early life

Joseph Henry Loveless was born on December 3, 1870, in Payson, in what was then Utah Territory. His mother, Sarah Jane Scriggins, was from Massachusetts while his father, Joseph Jackson Scriggins, was from Indiana. Both of his parents were early pioneers with the Latter Day Saint movement.


2. Personal life

In 1899, Loveless married Harriet Jane Savage, with whom he had one daughter. They married in Salt Lake City, divorcing by 1904. By August 1905, Loveless was living in Idaho and had married Agnes Octavia Caldwell. The couple had four children from 1906 to 1913.


3. Murder of Agnes Loveless and escape from jail

On May 5, 1916, he allegedly murdered his wife Agnes with an ax. Reports from the time identify her murderer as "Charles Smith", whom some additionally named as her husband. Charles Smith was one of Lovelesss many aliases, though. Loveless was arrested and sent to jail. At Agnes Lovelesss funeral, one of their children was quoted saying, "Papa never stayed in jail very long and hell soon be out". On May 18, 1916, Loveless broke out of the St. Anthony jail, using a sawblade he had hidden in his shoe.


4. Death

The details of Lovelesss death are unknown, and it is an open case with the Clark County Sheriffs Office as of January 2020. However, the clothes described in his final wanted poster after his jailbreak describe him as wearing the same clothes found with his remains: a light colored hat, brown coat, red sweater, and blue overalls over black trousers. This caused Lee Bingham Redgrave, a forensic genealogist with the DNA Doe Project, to speculate that Loveless died in 1916. The cause of death is unknown, though multiple sharp tools were used to dismember his body. Samantha Blatt, bioarchaeologist at Idaho State University, speculated that Loveless may have been killed by his deceased wifes family as revenge for her murder.


5. Discovery and identification of remains

In 1979, a family searching for arrowheads in Buffalo Cave near Dubois, Idaho, discovered human remains in a burlap sack, consisting of a headless torso. In 1991, a girl found a hand in the same cave, prompting excavations which recovered both legs and an arm. Forensic researchers estimated that the man was of European descent, and around 40 years old at the time of death. Identification was thought implausible due to the missing head. His post-mortem interval was initially estimated to be between 6 months and 5 years. In 2019, Idaho State University researchers and Clark County authorities solicited help from the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that seeks to identify previously unidentified deceased persons via forensic genealogy. Researchers constructed a genealogical tree for the unidentified remains. Because one of Lovelesss grandfathers was a polygamist with four wives, the tree was "huge" with hundreds of cousins and other relatives. Loveless was considered a plausible candidate, though, as his gravestone was found to be a cenotaph not accompanied by his remains. Lovelesss 87-year-old grandson was identified as living in California, and he agreed to take a DNA test, which confirmed that the remains were those of his grandfather Joseph Henry Loveless.

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