FALL RIVER — A body found in a landfill on Airport Road in Fall River in August 2005 has finally been identified, according to a release from the Bristol County District Attorney's Office.

Known for 17 years as "John Doe," the body was identified this week as missing Boston resident Leon Brown using advanced fingerprinting techniques.

Brown's death is now being investigated as suspicious, according to the D.A.'s office.

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Earlier this week, workers at the Bristol D.A.'s office found Brown's previously unmarked grave in Fall River and placed flowers and a temporary name marker there.

Brown was a 41-year-old man who had been missing since August 2005.

He suffered from multiple sclerosis and had difficulty walking, according to the office.

The D.A.'s office said Brown's body was identified thanks in part to the April expansion of the office's cold case unit to include an initiative focusing on identifying previously unidentified bodies.

Investigators used advanced fingerprint techniques and upgraded fingerprint information in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to find Brown's name.

Based on the circumstances surrounding Brown's disappearance, death, and disposal of his body in the landfill, the D.A.'s office noted, the case is now being investigated as a suspicious death.

Brown was not initially reported missing, and his leg braces were not on his legs nor found in the landfill with his body.

Boston police and state police with the Essex County D.A.'s office are now assisting the investigation, according to the office.

Brown's body was discovered on Aug. 29, 2005 at the BFI landfill site on Airport Road in Fall River.

An autopsy found that the man, then known only as "John Doe," had died within around a week of the discovery.

Investigators found evidence suggesting the body  may have been taken to the landfill in a dump truck from Peabody or the North Shore area.

Although a full DNA profile was developed and entered into national databases, no matches were found, according to the D.A.'s office.

The body was one of several others from Bristol County undergoing renewed testing from modern forensic labs as part of the office's Unidentified Bodies Project announced in April.

 

"My office has been extremely successful in solving cold case homicides and sexual assaults from decades past," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said.

"This case highlights why I decided to expand our Cold Case Unit to include unidentified human remains and missing persons. Each of these human remains was a living person who had hopes and human dignity."

"I am very pleased that we were able to identify Leon Brown, and that his previously unmarked grave will no longer just be an unidentified plot number in the cemetery," he added. "If we determine foul play was involved in Mr. Brown's disappearance, death or disposal, we will not stop until the individual responsible is brought to justice."

Anyone with any information about Brown's case is urged to contact the Bristol D.A.'s office at 508-961-1918.

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