Nearly 30 years after the mutilated and decomposed body of a man was discovered deep in the woods of Port Charlotte, Fla., Detectives from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office say they have identified a possible victim of the alleged serial killer “Hog Trail Murders “.
In a statement released Wednesday, detectives identified John Doe # 1 as Gerald “Jerry” Anthony Lombard, a Massachusetts man who went missing in the early 1990s.
In February 2020, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office released an updated rendering in the hopes that someone would recognize him and come forward to name the victim, Detective Mike Vogel told Dateline at the time.
The investigation began on February 1, 1994, when the Sheriff’s Office received a call indicating that a badly decomposed body had been found in a desolate wooded area near Wyandotte Avenue and Tulip Street in the northern part of the Charlotte County. Detectives could not determine the identity of the man or the cause of death. And that’s how he got the name John Doe # 1.
Between 1994 and 1997, the bodies of four other men were found in similar desolate areas in Charlotte and Sarasota counties. They were found naked with their genitals mutilated, leading detectives to believe it was the work of a serial killer.
Detective Vogel previously told Dateline that it emerged that over the course of more than a decade the killer had targeted white men between the ages of 20 and 35, who were passing through or vagrants, in what is became known as the “Pig Trail Murders”.
Detective Vogel told Dateline the killer would approach men in the area, especially vagrants or the homeless, and ask them to go to a desolate wooded area and pose nude for photographs in exchange for ‘silver.
“He targeted these men who he knew needed the money,” Vogel said. “He would lure them into the woods, tie them to a tree for ‘bondage photos’, and then that was when he killed them. He sexually assaulted them and then killed them.
One of the men has been identified as Richard Montgomery, 21, who authorities say was a vagrant. He had ligature marks on several parts of his body and the cause of his death was determined to be asphyxiation.
In 1997, Daniel Conahan was convicted of strangling Richard Montgomery. He is currently on death row and remains the prime suspect for at least two other victims, Vogel said. He added that authorities believe John Doe # 1 was also one of Conahan’s victims.
Detective Vogel told Dateline when they returned to the area where John Doe # 1 was found, they discovered what they believe were rope marks on the trees.
“That was Daniel Conahan’s motive,” Vogel said. “These rope marks came from where he used bondage to tie his victims to trees.”
Authorities were only able to indict Conahan with the murder of Richard Montgomery, but they believe he is linked to all the murders of men found in this area at that time and he has since been known as the “Hog Trail Killer. “.
In 2013, John Doe’s tooth # 1 was submitted to a lab for DNA testing. After the seven years it took for his DNA to be processed, he was uploaded to two databases and matched other DNA samples, leading detectives to possible relatives.
According to the press release, a woman suspected of being John Doe’s niece also submitted her DNA to Ancestry.com, which they said was likely how the game came about. In April 2021, detectives took DNA samples from Jerry Lombard’s sister, brother and son, which led them to verify his identity.
Detectives learned that Jerry Lombard was born in Massachusetts on August 30, 1962 and lived in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was one of 17 siblings, but the siblings had not heard from him since about 1991 or 1992.
“According to the family, Jerry was a bit of a wanderer,” the sheriff’s office said. “And it was common for him to disappear for long periods of time.”
Detective Vogel told Dateline that the Cold Case team was continuing to investigate Jerry’s case.
The Cold Affairs team at the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office are asking anyone who knows Jerry Lombard or who may have seen him with Daniel Conahan to call detectives at 941-639-2101.