Joseph J. Mulvaney previously known as Gabby's Bones, The Skeleton in the Box or Thermopolis John Doe was a man whose skeletal remains were found in a trunk in Wyoming in 1992. He was identified in 2017. He had never been formally reported missing.
In 1986, a man named John Morris left some of his possessions in the company of Newell Sessions, on the premise that he would come back for them later. One of these possessions was an old steamer trunk. In 1992, after Morris had not retrieved the trunk Sessions opened it and discovered a near complete skeleton. Sessions intended to bury the remains, but, at his wife's insistence, called the sheriff's department.
Morris was contacted but claimed to know nothing about the skeleton and seemed, "very surprised". He claimed he had acquired the trunk from a yard sale in the possible states of Wyoming, Illinois, Iowa or Oklahoma, and that it may have been in his possession since 1973, but couldn't be sure. The sheriff was suspicious of Morris when he said that he had never opened the trunk, and believed that Morris knew more than he was letting on, possibly even the identity of the body. Morris later moved to Mississippi, where he committed suicide.
The bones were taken to the state crime lab were x-rays were taken and a forensic reconstruction was made. A bullet was discovered in the skull, and the death was ruled a homicide. The following was established concerning the evidence:
- The bullet was a .25 caliber and was fired from a gun first manufactured in 1904, but not available in the US until 1908. Thus, it was speculated that the murder could have taken place anytime between 1908 and 1980.
- The trunk was found to be old, possibly from the 1930's based on the lock, and may have once belonged to someone who served in the armed forces during the interwar period.
- A bag from the chain supermarket "Heidi's" was found with the remains. It came from the early 1950's.
An autopsy revealed that the victim:
- was a caucasian male
- was in his 50's or 60's at the time of the murder
- stood 5’8", "plus or minus an inch and a half"
- had several "nicks on his ribcage"
Examining the skeleton showed that the man's lower leg bones and one of his hands were absent from the set of remains. The missing bones led to the speculation that victim had been buried before, then excavated and placed in the trunk
On 19th October 2017, a woman from Iowa contacted the sheriff's office and submitted her DNA, asking that it be compared with the unidentified man. The woman believed that the skeleton belonged to her grandfather. A DNA comparison conducted by the sheriff's office concluded that the samples were a "99.99% match" and officially identified the body as Joseph Mulvaney, born 1921.
According to Mulvaney's granddaughter, her grandfather was murdered in 1960 in Iowa, by Morris, who was her great uncle. Morris then put the body in the footlocker and buried it in Iowa. For reasons unclear, Morris eventually dug up the trunk and transported it to Wyoming, where he lived and worked for a time, and left it with Sessions, who discovered it.