The Doe Network: International Center for Unidentified & Missing Persons
Case File: 496UMIL

 The Doe Network


Image of the victim in 1945 and 1983; Headstone purchased by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Unidentified Male

  • Date of Discovery: October 11, 1945
  • Location of Discovery: Jacksonville, Morgan County, Illinois
  • Estimated Date of Death: November 28, 1993
  • State of Remains: Alive when located
  • Cause of Death: Stroke
  • Physical Description
    ** Listed information is approximate

  • Estimated Age: Teens
  • Race: Black
  • Gender: Male
  • Height: Unknown
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Hair Color: Black or brown
  • Eye Color: Brown
  • Distinguishing Marks/Features: Unable to communicate: deaf and mute. Mentally handicapped.
  • Dentals: Unknown
  • Fingerprints: Unknown
  • DNA: Unknown
  • Clothing & Personal Items
  • Clothing: Unknown
  • Jewelry: Unknown
  • Additional Personal Items: Unknown
  • Case History

    Police found a teen-age boy in the early morning hours of October 11, 1945, in Jacksonville, Illinois. Unable to communicate, the deaf and mute teenager was labeled “feeble minded” and sentenced by a judge to the Lincoln State School and Colony in Jacksonville.

    He remained in the Illinois mental health care system for over thirty years. Deaf, mute, and later blind, the young black man survived beatings, hunger, overcrowding, and the dehumanizing treatment that characterized state institutions through the 1950s. In spite of his environment, he made friends, took on responsibilities, and developed a sense of humor. People who knew him found him remarkable. He had a straw hat he loved to wear, and carried a backpack with his collection of rings, glasses, and silverware with him everywhere.

    Possible hints to his identity include his 'scrawling "Lewis"' and his 'pantomimed, wild accounts of foot-stomping jazz bars and circus parades.'

    He died after having a stroke at the Sharon Oaks Nursing Home in Peoria on November 28, 1993. Officials believe he was around 64 years old at the time.

    After reading a story about him in the New York Times, acclaimed singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote and recorded “John Doe No. 24” and purchased a headstone for his unmarked grave.

    Award-winning journalist Dave Bakke wrote God Knows His Name: The True Story of John Doe No. 24.

    Investigating Agency(s)
    If you have any information about this case please contact;

  • Agency Name: None
  • Agency Contact Person: N/A
  • Agency Phone Number: N/A

  • Agency Case Number: John Doe #24
  • NCIC Case Number: N/A
  • NamUs Case Number: Not listed
  • Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.

    Information Source(s)
  • The New York Times: John Doe No. 24 Takes His Secret to the Grave (December 5, 1993)
  • Southern Illinois University Press Archives

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    Questions or comments? Please contact appropriate member of the Area Team

    Added: 3/23/06; Last Updated: 2/22/15 - By: DD / Unidentified Persons Coordinator

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