Septic Tank Sam is the nickname given to an unidentified murder victim who was found in a septic tank thirteen kilometres (8.1 mi) west of Tofield, Alberta on April 12th, 1977. RCMP believe he may have been murdered as early as April 1976. Authorities suspect he was not from Alberta, but most likely worked as a migrant worker. If the victim was from the area, odds are there would have been a missing person’s report on him or a close family member would have reported him missing so police surmised he was a transient. However, they can’t be certain because the victim was never identified. 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.
A medical examiner in Edmonton determined Sam to be a white guy although another medical examiner in Oklahoma said he could of been native. If you have been to that region of Alberta its all white or native so that doesn’t narrow it down that much. Retired RCMP Sgt. Jim Warren, who was a junior constable at the Tofield detachment in 1979 and worked on the file, said that if the victim was from a northern Native village, his family may not have seen the sketch. 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 have been more if any of the bullets did not reach his skeleton. Before his death, Sam had been tortured; he had 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 have been tied to a bed while tortured. After Sam’s death, he had been covered in quicklime, most likely in an attempt to hasten decomposition. RCMP investigating the case described the murder as one of the most vindictive and sadistic they had ever seen. Forty-two years later the murder remains an unsolved Alberta cold case.
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 had been killed. It is 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. Some Tofield and area residents thought criminals or drug dealers from Edmonton used the Lindbrook septic tank to dump the body. Others believed the killer was someone local. They surmised who else but someone local knew about the abandoned septic tank? After all, the septic tank was hidden in a remote area on a two-and-half-acre lot off what was then Hwy 14. They said what were the chances of criminals from Edmonton finding a barely visible septic tank? Besides, Wye Road – from Sherwood Park to Lindbrook – has many spots with miles and miles of only thick trees and muskeg, perfect for dumping and hiding a body. Back in 1977, the deserted stretch of highway was even less populated with more locations for criminals/drug dealers from Edmonton to dump a body. They didn’t have to drive about 45 minutes to Lindbrook and increase the risk of being caught. Still, Sgt. Lammerts said if someone from Edmonton dumped the body in Lindbrook, then perhaps the killer(s) went to the area first looking for a dumpsite before committing the crime.
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 had 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. 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.
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 have 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.
- He still had all of his teeth, some fillings, and had signs of recent dental work.
- Medium build.
- Dark hair.
- His eye color is unknown.
- Measurements of his hands suggested he was right-handed.
- Examination of his bones and teeth revealed he suffered from an unspecified illness at five years old.
- Blue ‘Levi‘ work shirt with snap buttons.
- Gray T-shirt.
- Blue jeans.
- Gray wool socks.
- Brown imitation ‘Wallabee’ shoes.