CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — The identity of a murder victim has been revealed 27 years after their death thanks to modern DNA technology.
The victim who was known for years as John Doe #1 has now been identified as Gerald (Jerry) Lombard.
In 1994, two hunters in Charlotte County found the body of Gerald that was decomposing, but at the time investigators were unable to identify the person who had died or their cause of death. The body was given the temporary name of John Doe #1.
Two years later, on April 17, 1996, two county workers found human body parts dissected and decomposed, about one-half mile from where Gerald’s body was found. While searching the area for body parts, detectives found another man’s body that had its genitals removed. Detectives said the body had only been there for about a day.
The man’s body was identified as Richard Montgomery of Punta Gorda, according to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office. The medical examiner ruled both bodies were murder victims. The dissected, decomposed body was eventually identified as Kenneth Smith of Fort Myers.
After Gerald’s body was found — and before the bodies of Montgomery and Smith were discovered — two more bodies were found in wooded areas in North Port. Detectives said all of the scenes shared similarities.
Daniel O. Conahan, who was 42 at the time, was identified as a suspect in the serial killings.
Conahan was convicted for the murder of Richard Montgomery and was sentenced to death. He is currently on death row in the Florida State Prison.
Because of the circumstances surrounding the death of Gerald, Conahan is considered a suspect in the case.
Previous attempts at identifying John Doe #1 failed until the Cold Case Team recently decided to use more current genealogy resources.
In June 2013, a tooth from John Doe #1 was submitted for entry into missing persons and DNA index systems.
In June of 2020, the DNA from John Doe #1 was forwarded to a lab, which found there was enough data available for genealogy searches.
After data was submitted to family tree and genetic databases, the Cold Case Team was given the likely family name and potential relatives of John Doe #1.
Through DNA samples from that family, detectives were able to identify John Doe #1 as Gerald. He had not been seen or heard from since 1991 or 1992.
Gerald was born in Massachusetts in August of 1962. According to his family, he was a bit of a drifter and it was common for him to disappear for long periods of time.
The Cold Case Team is now asking anyone who knew Gerald Lombard to contact them. Anyone who may have seen Gerald with Daniel Conahan is also asked to reach out by calling 941-639-2101.