HENRY COUNTY, Ind. (WXIN) — After nearly two decades of being a John Doe, a man who was found shot to death behind an abandoned gas station in 2003 finally has a name.
The Henry County Coroner’s office identified the man as Daniel Diaz of Columbus, Ohio. Coroner Stacey Guffey said the FBI got a hit on the fingerprints that were sent to them shortly after the body was found.
“They did have the fingerprints from our victim on a previous arrest and that’s how they were able to compare what was sent in from our county,” Guffey said.
Diaz was initially found by two undercover Indianapolis police officers who were on a ride through Henry County, located east of Indianapolis, with an informant, according to the archives of Nexstar’s WXIN. The officers stopped to use the restroom at the abandoned gas station along State Road 109 just south of I-70 when they found the body.
“He was wearing sweatpants, tennis shoes, a blue sweatshirt and a white hat,” a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said at the time. “Also, the individual has his jaw wired shut.”
Investigators at the time hoped to identify the man by his extensive dental work, according to WXIN archives. Clues at the scene pointed toward a gruesome death.
“It appears that he was grasping at some of the grass around the area possibly after he was shot,” the sheriff’s office said in 2003.
Investigators eventually released photos of the victim to see if anyone could identify him. However, years went by and the man’s identity remained a mystery.
“Unfortunately there was just limited information on the victim,” Guffey said. “And so, everything just kind of came to a halt.”
Guffey made it his mission to identify the man when he became coroner in 2005. The county sent the man’s fingerprints and DNA to federal agencies but got nothing. That is until Guffey received an email from the FBI in February 2022 telling him they matched Diaz’s prints that they obtained from a local police agency.
Guffey tracked down Diaz’s family and let them know he had their son.
“Father, mother and sister all basically said that they felt like he just kind of went his own way and that he didn’t want to have a relationship with them,” Guffey said. “They were very distraught, very emotional, crying and very upset. But also, it seemed like they were good with the fact that he just didn’t write them off.”
Diaz was buried in a cemetery in Lewisville, Indiana. At the time, the community came together and, with donations from people and local businesses, were able to give him a headstone, which reads “here lays a young man that only God knows.”
The coroner said there are plans to add his name and birthdate. His family decided to leave him buried in Henry County and they hope to visit later this year.
Even though it’s been nearly two decades, Guffey said the search for his killer will continue.
“Regardless if you know them or not there’s always a suspect,” Guffey said. “We just may not know them right now. But that could change.”
Anyone who has any information on this crime should contact the Henry County Sheriff’s Office at (765) 529-5669.