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Family found after Utah County asked for help in identifying decades-old remains

Family members of a man believed to have died more than two decades ago have come forward after police asked for help identifying the remains found in Utah County in October.
Family members of a man believed to have died more than two decades ago have come forward after police asked for help identifying the remains found in Utah County in October.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Family members of a man believed to have died more than two decades ago have come forward after police asked for help identifying the remains found in Utah County in October.

On Oct. 14, a woman called police to report she had found skeletal remains on a property she leases west of Geneva Road between Provo and Orem. An ID card was also found near the bones, both about 350 feet from Utah Lake, according to the sheriff's office.

Until 2018, the area where the remains were found was covered by phragmites, an invasive reed plant typically found in wetland areas. Until the state removed the phragmites in 2018, they had grown to be 6 to 8 feet tall on both sides of the road, the sheriff's office stated.

"When the phragmites were cut in 2018 it exposed much of the area where the remains were found. It was clear that the remains had been there for many years. Some of the bones were scattered and some were broken. There were also remnants of clothing torn apart and scattered around the bones. It is possible the torn clothing and broken bones resulted when the phragmites were cut in 2018. These clothing remnants also showed significant signs of aging, consistent with having been in that location for many years," the sheriff's office said in a prepared statement.

The name on the ID card found at the scene is John Everett Booth.

"The condition of these remains is consistent with having been there since the late 1990s — as much as 23 years or more. While circumstances and evidence at the scene lead investigators to believe the remains are those of John Everett Booth, the (state) medical examiner has been unable to positively identify them," according to the sheriff's office.

Also found with the remains were a blue jacket and a Timex watch.

Booth would be 75 years old if he were alive today. Investigators checked all known businesses, health providers, law enforcement agencies and jail records in an effort to locate next of kin, and even contacted people with similar names in an effort to find someone who knew Booth.

The last jail booking for Booth was in 1995. His Utah ID card was issued in 1999. And based on his Social Security number, investigators believe he may have ties to Iowa.

Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the office "located relatives of John Everett Booth," and would be working with the family and medical examiner to "positively identify the remains."

"This process is likely to take several months," Cannon said. "Thanks to all who reached out with information helping to move this case forward."

The medical examiner's office was not able to determine a cause of death with the remains collected. Cannon said, however, that there was nothing directly suspicious about the finding, other than it appeared to be an unattended death.