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January 31, 2023
On November 19, 1997, a Lenawee County Farmer preparing to cut his cornfield discovered human remains in a thin layer of snow, around 50 feet from a nearby roadway in section 22 of Blissfield Township, Lenawee County, Michigan. The remains appeared to be that of a mutilated and naked man.
Blissfield Township is a civil township of Lenawee County in the state of Michigan with a current population of around 3,000. The cornfield where the victim was found is located west of Corey Highway, north of Carroll Highway.
The farmer called police who were quick to arrive at the scene and inspect the body and the surrounding area.
On sight, it was clear that the body was that of a male, however both the head and hands had been cut from the body and were missing from the scene. The hands had been cut just above the wrists in what is believed to be an attempt to hinder investigators from discovering the victim’s identity. Officers noted saw striations on the ends of the bones. Both the head and hands would not be recovered and there was no other evidence discovered at the scene.
It appeared that the man had been killed and dismembered elsewhere and his body dumped in the cornfield, possibly accessed by vehicle from the roadway nearby.
The victim’s remains were in an unrecognizable state, made worse by damage caused by insect and animal activity. The victim did not have any distinguishing marks on his body, such as tattoos, scars, or birthmarks.
Forensic investigation revealed that the victim was a light-skinned Hispanic male, between the ages of 20 – 40 years old, around 5’8 and 150lbs.
At one point in the investigation, an anonymous tip was called into police, stating that the John Doe may have been a husband and father from Allentown, Texas, named Roberto, who was said to have been traveling between Texas and Chicago when he disappeared. Media reports state that Roberto resided in a property with his family somewhere between McAllen and Weslaco, Texas, where he raised chickens.
Although they followed up on the tip, it ultimately lead nowhere.
A sketch of what the victim may have looked like, based on a witness description, was uploaded to both his Namus (NamUs ID: UP8975) and DNA network profile, which can be viewed HERE<<. The man sports medium length dark hair and a moustache.
Without a head for dentals, or hands for fingerprints, police were unable to order any further tests on the victim at the time. The unidentified man was given the placeholder name: Lenawee County John Doe and although investigators continued to work, the case inevitably went cold.
Almost 25 years after the Lenawee County John Doe was discovered, two men have been arrested in connection with his murder.
Richardo Sepulveda, 51, of Cincinnati, and Michael Sepulveda, 49, of Toledo, who are brothers, were recently located and arrested by The United States Marshals Service are charged with the following counts:
-First Degree Premeditated Murder
-Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Premeditated Murder
- Assault with Intent to Maim
- Conspiracy to commit Assault with Intent to Maim
- Tampering with Evidence
- Conspiracy to Commit Tampering with Evidence
A First Degree murder sentence carries a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
At the time of their arrests both brothers were living in Ohio.
They were scheduled to appear before a judge Wednesday, January 25 at 8:30 a.m. and it is not known if the suspects have entered a plea to the charges.
In preparation for the arrest, Michigan State Police worked alongside local and federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in order to create a timeline and collect evidence.
The brothers would have been in their early to mid-twenties at the time of the murder, and although at the time of writing they are the only ones to be arrested, Michigan State Police have stated that more individuals may be charged with assisting in the crime or helping to cover up the crime.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nesse said of the arrest: “Michigan State Police worked with multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to gather evidence and establish a timeline of events. I am grateful for their persistence in pursuing this case. All crime victims deserve justice regardless of how long it takes to receive it."
One of the many people working to bring the case to a close is Michigan State Police 1st District Cold Case Unit Det. Sgt. Larry Rothman, who has been working on the case since late 2015 and is happy that he has been able to make progress with the long-unsolved case, including identifying the victim, which he hopes will bring closure to the victim's family. Rothman hopes that people will come forward following the arrest of the Sepulveda brothers, and as the case is ongoing, has asked any member of the public with information to call Michigan State Police Det. Sgt. Larry Rothman at 313-407-9379.
According to Rothman, state police recently searched the Ottawa River in Toledo where they obtained additional evidence.