Joseph Henry Loveless

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Henry Loveless
Composite image of Henry Loveless in May of 1916, created with images of family members.
Born(1870-12-03)December 3, 1870
DisappearedMay 18, 1916 (aged 45)
St. Anthony, Idaho, U.S.A.
Body discoveredAugust 26, 1979 (torso); March 30, 1991 (limbs)
Dubois, Idaho
Other namesHenry Loveless
Charles Smith
Walter Currans
Walter Cairns
Known forBootlegging, murder suspect, escaped convict, formerly unidentified decedent
Harriet Jane Savage
(m. 1899; div. 1904)

Agnes Octavia Caldwell Loveless
(m. 1905; died 1916)
RelativesJoseph Jackson Loveless (father)
Sarah Jane Scriggins (mother)
Criminal chargeBootlegging, liquor violations, and escaping prison (in 1913 and in 1914) and murder (in 1916)
Capture status
Partner(s)Frank Ordens
EscapedMay 18, 1916
Escape endWhen Loveless had died
Victims1 (alleged murder of his wife)
DateThe first or second week of May 1916
Location(s)Dubois, Idaho
Killed1 (alleged murder of his wife)
Date apprehended
May 1916

Joseph Henry Loveless (December 3, 1870 – c.May 1916), also known as Charles Smith, Walter Currans, and Walter Cairns, was an American-born criminal who escaped prison after murdering his common-law wife, Agnes, with an axe in May of 1916. On August 26, 1979, his torso was discovered in a cave in Dubois, Idaho, followed by his limbs on March 26, 1991. However, it was not until late 2019 that the remains were positively identified as his. The positive identification was made possible by forensic genealogists.

Early life

Joseph Henry Loveless was born on December 3, 1870[1] at Payson, in what was then Utah Territory. His mother, Sarah Jane Scriggins, was from Massachusetts, while his father, Joseph Jackson Loveless, was from Indiana. Both of his parents were early Mormon pioneers from the Latter Day Saint movement.[2]

The murder of Agnes Loveless and Loveless’ escape from the prison cell

In the early May of 1916, Loveless allegedly murdered his wife Agnes with an axe in her bed while she was still asleep, while two of their children who were awake at the time, were present. Reports from the time identify her murderer as "Charles Smith", whom some additionally named as her husband, while their neighbours had testified that Loveless and his common-law wife, Agnes, had been fighting at the evening, several hours prior to the discovery of Agnes’ desceased body. Charles Smith was one of Loveless's many aliases.[2] Loveless was arrested and sent to jail. At Agnes Loveless's funeral on May 16, 1916, one of their sons was quoted saying, "Papa never stayed in jail very long and he will soon be out".[2] Only two days later, on, May 18, 1916, at around 5:30 PM, Loveless had broke out of the St. Anthony prison cell,[3] by sawing through the prison cell bars, while his prison cell guards were out eating their supper. However, there is some speculation made that Loveless was assisted by an person or person(s), from outside of his prison cell.


The details of Loveless's death are unknown, and it is an open case with the Clark County Sheriff's Office as of January 2020. However, his final wanted poster after his jailbreak describes him as wearing some of the same clothes that were found with remains: a light colored hat, brown coat, red maroon sweater, and blue overalls over black trousers. The clothing found with the remains, included: Only a red maroon sweater, black trousers and a white-pinstriped collar shirt, which was not listed with the clothing on the wanted poster. [3][4] This caused Lee Bingham Redgrave, a forensic genealogist with the DNA Doe Project, to speculate that Loveless died in 1916. The cause of death is unknown, though multiple sharp tools were used to dismember his body.[3] Samantha Blatt, bioarchaeologist at Idaho State University, speculated that Loveless may have been killed by his deceased wife's family as revenge for her murder.[4]

Discovery and identification of remains

In 1979, a family searching for arrowheads in Buffalo Cave near Dubois, Idaho, discovered human remains in a burlap sack, consisting of a headless torso. In 1991, a girl found a hand in the same cave, prompting excavations which recovered both legs and an arm. Forensic researchers estimated that the man was of European descent, and around 40 years old at the time of death. Identification was thought nearly impossible due to the missing head. His post-mortem interval was initially estimated to be between 6 months and 5 years.[5] In 2019, Idaho State University anthropologists, Samantha Blatt and Amy Michael, along with Clark County authorities solicited help from the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that seeks to identify previously unidentified deceased persons via forensic genealogy. Researchers constructed a genealogical tree for the unidentified remains. Because one of Loveless's grandfathers was a polygamist with four wives, the tree was large, with hundreds of cousins and other relatives.[3] Loveless was considered a plausible candidate, though, as his gravestone was found to be a cenotaph (not accompanied by his remains).[3] Loveless's 87-year-old grandson was identified as living in California, and he agreed to take a DNA test, which confirmed that the remains were those of his grandfather Joseph Henry Loveless.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Headless torso found in Idaho cave identified as outlaw who escaped jail in 1916". CBS News. January 1, 2020. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Griffith, Janelle (December 31, 2019). "Human remains found in Idaho cave identified as outlaw who died over 100 years ago". NBC News. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Headless Torso Found in Idaho Cave Identified as Bootlegger". The New York Times. Associated Press. December 31, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Murphy, Heather (January 3, 2020). "Human Remains in a Cave Identified as a Bootlegger Who Escaped Jail". The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  5. ^ "103-year-old murder case cracked after headless torso found in Idaho cave". St. Lucia News Online. New York Post. January 2, 2020. Archived from the original on February 23, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2020.

Further reading