Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
Harpers ferry remains

Computer generated image of the victim

Real Name: Unknown
Case: Unidentified Remains/Unsolved Murder
Date: May 13, 1996
Location: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Loudon, Virginia


Details: At around 11PM on the evening of May 13, 1996, at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Virginia, an off-duty park ranger noticed a steamer trunk on the side of the road near the entrance of the park. Without a radio, she decided to wait until the next morning to report it. Hours later, sheriff's deputy Clark Jackson discovered the trunk and found that there was a large amount of tape around it. He removed the tape, opened the trunk, and located a duffel bag inside of it. He unzipped the bag and found another duffel bag. He then unzipped the second one, and found several clothes. He moved the clothes and saw a human hand. He immediately contacted other authorities.
Police determined that there was the body of an old man inside the trunk. The man was in his sixties or seventies and was wearing only pajama tops. He was extremely emaciated, being 5'7" yet only weighing 111 pounds. He was scrawny looking, had stubble, and appeared to be unkempt. The fact that he was wearing only pajama tops suggested that he was wheelchair-bound. Large doses of a tranquilizer was discovered in the man's system. It was determined that he died of strangulation, but also suffered from blunt force trauma to the head. Investigators determined that the man had been dead for about two days, and that his killer dumped him in the park between 8:30pm and 10:30pm on the night of May 13.
Police speculated that the man lived in a private home or a convalescent home. Someone, either a caretaker, relative, nurse or orderly, wanted him dead. Authorities believe that he is one of thousands of elderly victims that are killed each year by those who take care of them. The crimes usually go undiscovered because they are at the age where they are expected to pass away. Investigators believe that the case may have been a "burden-homicide" where the man's caretaker was tired of caring for him and decide to kill him. Another possibility is that it may have been a murder for profit. In that the scenario, the killer would have to make sure that they had all of the control over the man's money before they got rid of him.
Police are baffled, however, as to why the trunk was left in the open, just two feet away from an overlook. If it had gone over the edge, the trunk would have gone into the river and would never be found. Investigators speculated that the killer may have wanted the man to be found, but could not understand why. The most likely theory was that due to its close proximity to a trash can, the killer believed that the trunk would have been picked up by a trash truck and taken to a landfill.
However, most murders of the elderly are disguised as death by natural causes. Authorities would not find out about the murder unless an autopsy was done. An autopsy performed on the John Doe was done not only to find out how the man died, but also to find out his identity. The man's dental records and fingerprints were taken, but no matches were found. They did find a micro valve implanted in his heart during a previous surgery with a serial number on it. Authorities hoped to trace the man through it. However, the physician that did the surgery did not return the card with the man's information and the serial number.
Since May of 1996, authorities have been unable to solve the mystery of the John Doe. They say that the victim has a distinctive face and that anybody who knows the victim will recognize him based on the picture of him or composite. However, the man remains unidentified and his killer is still at large.
Suspects: Authorities are certain that once they identify the victim, they will be able to identify his killer. They believe the killer is the man's caretaker.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the November 26, 2001 episode.
  • This case is infamously known for the rather disturbing photograph of the man on the coroner table in hopes of identifying him.
  • The book In the Arms of Evil: A True Story of Obsession, Greed, and Murder was written about the case.

Results: Solved. In November of 2003, police submitted the John Doe's fingerprints to a database and identified him as seventy-five-year-old Jasper F. "Jack" Watkins through his military fingerprint records. Several months after discovering his identity, in August of 2004, authorities arrested Nancy Jean Siegel. She was subsequently charged with murder and mail fraud.
Investigators discovered that Siegel had met Jack in 1994. Jack was recently widowed and Siegel had sold him a burial vault for his wife. At the time, Siegel was on probation for theft and fraud. The two began a romantic relationship. Within a few months, Siegel began using Jack's personal information to open credit card accounts. Over the next year, she bought several expensive items, including a BMW, with Jack's money and on the credit cards in his name. She also prevented him from contacting his friends and stepchildren.
Investigators discovered that by Spring 1996, Siegel had sold Jack's home and most of his personal possessions. After that, they went to Atlantic City. When Jack went to the hospital, he claimed that Siegel was his girlfriend. However, she told them that she was his caretaker. She unsuccessfully tried to place him in a long-term care facility. A few weeks later, he was found dead in the steamer trunk. Siegel never reported him missing and continued to use his identity for years after his death, collecting his retirement and Social Security benefits. His disappearance was not discovered because she had cut off his contact with his friends and family.
After Jack was identified, Siegel was questioned. She initially claimed that he was still alive. When investigators told her that they had identified his body, she virtually confessed to the crime. In March of 2009, Siegel was convicted of second-degree murder-witness tampering, theft of government benefits, identity theft, and mail fraud. She was sentenced to thirty-three years in prison and five years supervised probation.