From The Archives: A Mystery Corpse At Gavins Point Dam

I was recently digging through the archives of the Press & Dakotan doing some research when I came across a curious story involving an old corpse that had apparently been planted on Gavins Point Dam.

Yes, you read that right. I thought maybe you’d share my curiosity about the story.

The first story appeared Friday, April 21, 1967.

On Thursday, a badly decomposed body was found on the face of Gavins Point Dam, where it had washed up from Lewis and Clark Lake.

Father Dominic Laven, the chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital, noticed the body on the shore and called the Yankton Police Department at 5:15 p.m.

According to the story, Yankton County authorities were seeking the identity of the corpse.

County Coroner Dr. Max Reade said the body was too decomposed to make any easy identification. He said it did not appear to be the body of a Pilger, Neb., banker who drowned in the lake near Niobrara, Neb., while duck hunting in 1965. Nor did it appear to be a man who had been missing since 1955.

The Press & Dakotan published a follow-up on Tuesday, April 25. It appeared under the headline “Body Found At Lake Thursday Called “Hoax”.

Dr. Reade had concluded the body wasn’t a drowning victim. He determined it was a male of about 35 years of age who had been dead for 50-60 years, or possibly even longer. Clothing on the body was much newer, leading Reade to believe it had been placed in the water along the shore as part of a hoax. It had only been in the water a matter of months, he told the newspaper.

The corpse was mummified and calcified, and Reade said it didn’t appear to have had any formal burial. Instead, he thought it had been underground or in a shallow grave for a considerable length of time.

“The sock found on one foot of the torso was a well-preserved stretch sock of recent manufacture,” the article stated. “The piece of belt found also was of recent date. One-fourth of a pair of trousers — the back part of the left leg — was found on the right leg of the torso.

“Also interesting to note was that the pocket had come apart, and appeared to have contained a billfold. It was speculated that a billfold might have been left with the body as a means to confuse identification.”

Reade said authorities became suspicious when they realized the clothing and body could not possibly go together.

“The conclusion is that the body appears to have been placed on the beach and articles placed on the torso for unknown reasons,” he stated.

Sheriff Jeff Scott and Reade said that if the billfold could be found, it could help determine the perpetrator of the hoax.

“We’re looking for a motive,” Scott stated. “Somebody did it for a reason.”

Reade said no further attempts were being planned to determine the identity of the body.


This is the actual Press & Dakotan story about the corpse found on the face of Gavins Point Dam in 1967.

This is the actual Press & Dakotan story about the corpse found on the face of Gavins Point Dam in 1967.

The story certainly raises a lot of questions — the motive being number one on my list.

I have no idea if there were any more developments in the case. I checked a few more editions for an update and saw none. Perhaps it is a forgotten mystery.

But if anyone recalls the case and has more information, I’d be interested to know about it.

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