Septic Tank Sam

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Septic Tank Sam
Borncirca 1945–1951 (26–32)
Cause of deathHomicide by gunshot
Body discoveredApril 13, 1977
Height168 cm (5 ft 6 in)

Septic Tank Sam is the nickname given to an unidentified murder victim who was found in a septic tank thirteen kilometers west of Tofield, Alberta. Authorities suspect he wasn't from Alberta, but most likely worked as a migrant worker.[1]


Sam was found wearing a blue Levi shirt with snap buttons, a gray t-shirt, blue jeans, and imitation Wallabee shoes. His decomposed body was wrapped in a yellow bed sheet and tied up with a nylon rope. Sam was found by a local couple scavenging their abandoned property for a septic tank pump. After seeing his leg bobbing in their old septic tank, they alerted the Tofield Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment. Two officers came to the scene to recover Sam's body, where they spent an hour emptying the 1.8 meter deep septic tank with empty ice cream pails.[2]


A medical examiner in Edmonton determined Sam to be of European Canadian descent. His bones and teeth suggested he suffered from an unspecified illness at five years old. Sam's cause of death was two gunshots to the head and chest, although it was possible there could've been more if any of the bullets didn't reach his skeleton. Before his death, Sam had been tortured; he'd been beaten, tied up, burned with a small butane torch and cigarettes, and sexually mutilated with farm shears. The sexual mutilation was so severe that the medical examiner took several months to positively identify him as a male. Based on the burn marks on his shirt sleeves, Sam could've been tied to a bed while tortured. After Sam's death, he'd been covered in quicklime, most likely in an attempt to quicken decomposition.[3]


Due to a lack of evidence in the septic tank, Sam was most likely murdered elsewhere and the septic tank was only a dumpsite. Sam's murderers are believed to have known him, due to how viciously he'd been killed. It's also suspected Sam's murderers were Tofield locals or were familiar with the area. due to the location of Sam's dumpsite being on a rural property.[2]

Sam's body has been exhumed from his unmarked grave in an Edmonton cemetery twice. In 1979, Sam's remains were flown out to Clyde Snow and Betty Gatliff, Forensic anthropologist and medical illustrator at the Federal Aviation Administration in Oklahoma who'd been creating 3D facial composites from skulls since 1967. Along with creating a facial composite for Sam, the two could tell by measuring his hands that he was right handed. Snow believed Sam to be of Indigenous origin and around 35 years old, contradicting the RCMP's belief of Sam being a European Canadian and between 26 and 32.[2]

Sam was exhumed and reconstructed for the second time in 2000 by Cyril Chan, who was with the Edmonton medical examiner's office at the time.[2]


The 1,200 residents of Tofield at the time were horrified to hear of Sam's murder. Farmers checked their own septic tanks for bodies and business owners worried that Sam's murderers could've been regular customers. Many speculated Sam had been sexually mutilated due to committing a sex crime or being unfaithful in a relationship. Ed Lammerts, one of the officers who helped recover Sam's body, has since retired. He believes Sam will never be identified, despite sending X-rays of Sam's teeth to 800 Albertan dentists coupled with publishing them in dental magazines, and spending $1,000,000 CAD on the case.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (none) (2012-08-13). "Canada's Missing". Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  2. ^ a b c d Smith, Peter B. (2009). CSI Alberta: The Secrets of Skulls and Skeletons. Heritage House Publishing Co. ISBN 9781894974844.
  3. ^ "Death of Alberta's 'Septic Tank Sam' is still a cold case". Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  4. ^ October 9, Jonny Wakefield Updated:; 2017 (2017-10-08). "RCMP hope DNA database could provide break in Septic Sam cold case | Edmonton Journal". Retrieved 2019-06-13.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)