Investigators hope these images will jog someone’s memory and help them to identify a boy whose body was pulled from a Southern Oregon reservoir more than 45 years ago.

A face to the case

Investigators on a quest to identify a little boy whose body was pulled from a mountain reservoir more than 45 years ago still don't know his name, but now they can see his face.

And they hope someone will recognize him.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has created a series of detailed images to help Jackson County Sheriff's Department investigators as they work to close a case they found lingering unresolved in a box of old files.

Tucked among records of car thefts and burglaries, the case of a child's body found in Keene Creek Reservoir east of Ashland by a fisherman in July 1963 but never identified caught the attention of special investigator Jim Tattersall.

Tattersall, a retiree who volunteers with the Sheriff's Department a few days a week, brought the case to Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan and a team took it up.

They wanted to know who the child was, and, if possible, they wanted to determine what had happened to him that left him bundled in blankets and wire, weighted down with assayer's molds designed for refining and casting metal, in Keene Creek Reservoir.

They pored through old files and tracked down original investigators to query them over details. In August, they exhumed the tiny body from an unmarked grave at Hillcrest Memorial Park for DNA testing and facial reconstruction from the skull and shared the story with the public, in hopes someone would come forward with new facts.

Tips poured in, helping investigators identify people mentioned in old reports and wrap up loose ends. The information even helped reunite a foster family with a child they had worried about for decades after he left their care.

But the identity of the boy pulled from the water remains a mystery.

"It's driving me nuts," Tattersall said. "I keep thinking each thing will be the key and then it isn't."

The team's latest hope for unlocking the mystery is the series of sketches from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

A forensic artist there created the images by combining precise measurements from a magnetic-resonance imaging scan of the skull with standardized data based upon the average thickness of soft tissue at various points on the skull and jaws for people of that age and sex, Fagan explained.

Forensic artists generally warn that their images aren't an exact representation, but should show some resemblance. They don't add hair or eye color to the rather ghostly images so people don't get distracted by superficial details that artists could get wrong.

"If you knew this child, you likely would recognize him," Fagan said.

Investigators said the boy, who was about 2 and likely had been dead for months when he was found July 10, 1963, had longish, sandy blond or light brown hair and brown eyes. He wore a red, long-sleeved pullover shirt with thin white stripes, gray corduroy trousers with an elastic waist and a buckle for size adjustments, a cloth diaper fastened with blue diaper pins and covered with plastic pants, anklet socks and white walker or learner shoes known as "Jumping Jacks."

Tattersall took the new sketches to the Greensprings area to show to people who had lived there when the toddler was found. Some had been children at the time and didn't recall details. Others had moved away, suffered age-related memory problems or died.

"It was a close-knit community, but people didn't recognize this boy," Tattersall said.

He still hopes to learn more about an encampment for the families of forest workers that sat near Highway 66 just over the county line in Klamath County. That could have been home to people who had few resources for a proper burial and wouldn't necessarily have been familiar to established families in the area, investigators speculated.

They also have one other physical clue noted by Jeanne McLaughlin, a forensic anthropologist from Lane County, who examined the body last fall. She pointed out that the boy had a distinctive and rare tooth deformity. One of his lower front teeth is bifurcated, having two roots and a surface split by an odd groove.

Fagan said McLaughlin also saw characteristics of Down's Syndrome or other developmental abnormality, but her final report isn't complete yet. If the boy did have a developmental disability or genetic abnormality, it could have played a role in his death, Fagan said.

While investigators primarily want to find out who the child was and hope the reconstructed images help, they say good already has come from their work.

"This is a good learning experience," Fagan said.

The department has improved its cold-case management, creating case books with summaries of open missing-person and homicide cases. Information regularly is updated and shared with other agencies, he said.

Investigators also have started entering information in a national database of missing-person cases and are encouraging more extensive use of a state database, too.

After the investigative team found that state law mandates the disposal of all medical examiner records after 20 years — resulting in the loss of the original autopsy report on the toddler pulled from Keene Creek Reservoir — they contacted State Sen. Jason Atkinson to propose a change in the law. The senator is studying options for protecting files linked to unsolved cases, Fagan said.

Investigators have compiled lists of apparent clandestine gravesites — most of them burial sites for dogs or other animals — so when hunters or hikers report gravesites or bones, officials can quickly determine if further investigation is needed.

"We are trying to do our part and this little boy has helped," Fagan said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

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