Murder Victim Identified 35 Years After His Killing When Family Member Recognized His Belt Buckle

A Florida man who went missing in 1983 and was killed in 1985 has been identified as a previously unknown murder victim more than 35 years later.

William Ernest Thompson has been identified as the "John Doe" in a 1985 murder case long gone cold.

In a statement last week, the Escambia County Sheriff's office said that investigators were tipped off by a family member of Thompson's, who had been trying to research what happened to their uncle.

Thompson's body was first discovered in Escambia County on January 23, 1985, and police asked for help from the public to identify him. The case eventually went cold and was listed on the sheriff's website under "John Doe."

In 2018, one of Thompson's relatives came upon the listing and noticed something that led to the discovery of his identity.

"The thing that stuck out to the person the most was the victims belt buckle with the hand-engraved initials 'W.T.,' " the sheriff's statement said. "The person felt this could have been their missing uncle, whose last known location was in Escambia County near the same time John Doe’s body was discovered."

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That person's DNA was analyzed with that of John Doe, and sure enough, the murder victim was revealed to be Thompson, who last made contact with his family on September 23, 1983. A missing persons report was never filed with the sheriff's office, however, and his case is now being actively worked as a homicide, the statement said.

"This is another example of the never-ending quest for justice," Chief Deputy Chip Simmons said in a statement. "While we haven’t yet solved the homicide. It is a step forward and can give the family some closure until the case is solved."

Anyone with information regarding Thompson's death is encouraged to contact the Escambia County Sheriff's office.

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