Photo by Jason White
(From left) Major Case Squad Commander Capt. Dan DeCarli, Chief Deputy Madison County Sheriff Maj. Jeff Connor and Madison County Sheriff John Lakin speak at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Madison County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators reopened a cold case this week after DNA tests revealed the identity of a torso found at an interstate rest stop.
At a press conference Tuesday at the Madison County Sheriff’s Department in Edwardsville, investigators said the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis has been reactivated after DNA tests revealed that a body found June 28, 2004, at a westbound Interstate 70 rest area near Wright City, Mo., is the remains of Deanna Denise Howland of Alton. A worker trimming brush found the headless, handless and legless body. Howland would have been 35 when her remains were found.
Madison County investigators first started investigating Howland’s disappearance as a missing person case in 2015. Howland, who had a history of drug abuse and prostitution, was estranged from her family.
“That was part of the reason it took so long for her to be reported missing,” Chief Deputy Madison County Sheriff Maj. Jeff Connor said.
The case got a new look after a Warren County Sheriff’s Department investigator, Lt. Matt Schmutz, began talking to a Madison County detective in early 2015 about the Howland case. The collaboration led to police obtaining a DNA sample from a possible family member, whose DNA sample showed similarities to Howland earlier this year. Additional relatives were tested and police confirmed the body’s identity March 10, 2016.
Police are gathering information about Howland’s associates and her whereabouts before she disappeared.
“It’s a large task to do that, and we’re just asking for the public’s help,” Connor said.
When asked what information police are looking for, Connor responded “anything.”
Howland was known to frequent East St. Louis and Granite City. She may have been known by the following names from previous marriages: Deanna Denise Froehlich, Deanna Denise Kinnear and Deanna Denise Barker.
“I’m sure there’s somebody out there that has information on this case, and maybe they’re hesitant to say anything, but with the help of the Crimestoppers (an anonymous tip line), that should hopefully lead to a successful conclusion of this case,” Major Case Squad Commander Capt. Dan DeCarli said.
This is the third time the Major Case Squad has been activated to investigate the case. The squad is composed of detectives from throughout the metropolitan area who work for short times on high-profile cases. Investigators are working out of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
Anyone with information about Howland can contact Crimestoppers at (866) 371-8477, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office at (618) 692-6087 or the Warren County Sheriff’s Department at (636) 456-4332.