Clay man, missing 18 years, identified as victim of 1985 Vermont murder
BY BETH SMITH
January 15, 2003
He left home with a stranger in September of 1984.
After placing one phone call to his mother a few days after his departure, Webster County resident Roger G. Jeffreys was never heard from again.
For more than 18 years the whereabouts of the 22-year-old from Clay remained a mystery.
But on Monday, the Vermont State Police issued a statement identifying Jeffreys as the person found dead in November of 1985 in a wooded area in Glover, Vt.
Authorities say he was murdered.
"Roger didn't die yesterday (Monday)," Jeffreys' sister, Angie Herron of Corydon, said Tuesday afternoon. "But our hope died yesterday."
Herron said she and the rest of the family had realized a long time ago that her older brother was probably dead.
But, she said, "We always had hoped he'd call or come home."
Vermont State Police Lt. Leo Bachand said this homicide has been an open case since the remains were first discovered more than 18 years ago.
Bachand said the agency is always hopeful that an arrest will be made.
But right now he said, "because of him finally being identified, we have background (investigations) to do" before the case can move forward.
"We've got a lot of information we're working on, and we have a lot of research to do," he said.
According to Herron, Jeffreys left home the first weekend in September of 1984 with a man who had picked him up while he was hitchhiking.
Jeffreys brought the man to his parents' home in Clay and told the family that the man was going to Canada, and he would be going with him, Herron said.
Jeffreys, who was married and the father of 1-year-old twins, had been arrested in Madisonville for public intoxication about a week prior to him leaving, his sister said.
Herron said her brother had been in trouble in the past but nothing "major." She said Jeffreys wanted to get away while things "blew over."
"It was not unusual for Roger to just go," Herron said.
"It was nothing for him to hitchhike" to Evansville or Nashville, she said.
"My mom says he was always 'anxious to see what was over the next mountain top,'" Herron said. "So that (the trip to Canada) didn't alarm anybody."
Three days after the two men left, Jeffreys telephoned his mother from Maryland "just checking in," Herron said. "He said he'd call in a few days."
He never did.
Herron said the family started getting concerned about a week later when they didn't hear from Jeffreys.
"We never filed a missing person report because he was in trouble with the police," she said, adding the family thought it would only make things worse for him.
Herron said that her former sister-in-law, Loretta Conrad, who was married to Jeffreys at the time of his disappearance, began searching for him.
"She's the reason we found him," Herron said.
Conrad said she contacted Jeffreys' parole officer and the Webster County Sheriff's Office. Conrad said she also wrote to "Unsolved Mysteries," to no avail.
For the next 18 years, Conrad said, "I would just keep pulling strings trying to get somewhere."
Then about three months ago, she said her brother-in-law told her about a missing persons Web site called doenetwork.org.
According to Vermont police, the site is operated by a volunteer organization that assists authorities in locating missing persons.
Conrad said she got on the Web site and e-mailed Maryland since she knew Jeffreys had been there. "I gave his information" and within days a woman from Maryland e-mailed back saying she had distributed information about him nationwide.
A few days later, Conrad said, the Vermont State Police called and said they had been working on an 18-year-old case and wanted to talk with family members.
Meanwhile, Herron also went to the Web site.
And because the family kept hearing from the Vermont State Police, she said, she typed in Vermont on the Web site.
"I went through page after page of victims," Herron said. "I found my brother."
Herron said she called a newspaper -- The Chronicle in Orleans County where her brother's body was found -- and it sent her archived stories from around the time the remains were discovered.
Those stories say that the body was found by hunters in a shallow grave in a wooded area in Glover, Vt.
The articles also say the victim had died due to blunt impact to the head, and that the body had been there several months.
Herron said her brother's body was finally identified through clues such as Jeffreys' tattoo of his initials RGJ on his shoulder and the fact that he had broken his arm as a child. The remains also had a tattoo of initials RGJ on the shoulder and evidence of an old break in the arm. The height was also the same.
Herron said DNA samples taken from his body at the time it was discovered were not suitable for testing.
However, once the body is exhumed, more DNA samples will be taken, she said.
The body won't be exhumed until the ground thaws in Vermont, Herron said. And then it will be returned to the family for burial.
Conrad said finding that her ex-husband had been murdered is "upsetting."
But, she said, "It's a relief that my kids finally know what happened to their dad."
Conrad said if those remains hadn't been identified as Jeffreys she would have kept searching for him.
"I would not have stopped looking," she said. "It's been an 18-year mission. And I'm glad it's over."