L.V. Bailey

This sketch is of a man who died in 1982 and remained unidentified until 2017.

CASA GRANDE — Pearlie Dockery always suspected somebody knew something about her missing brother.

The Alabama resident spent decades wondering what happened to L.V. Bailey, her older brother, after he disappeared in Arizona in July 1982.

Turns out, one didn’t have to look too far to find the pieces for solving the mystery.

After Bailey passed out while working on a farm in Casa Grande, he was taken to a hospital in Maricopa County. He later died from an aneurysm.

For whatever reason, Bailey didn’t have his wallet with him at the time so his body couldn’t be identified.

Dockery said her brother’s girlfriend filed a missing persons report in Casa Grande, apparently not knowing about his death. Meanwhile, Bailey’s siblings came to Arizona and filed a second missing persons report.

Bailey was the type of person who stayed connected with his family, the sister said, so it wouldn’t have made sense for him to run off without telling someone.

Despite two reports, investigators couldn’t make a connection with the unidentified body. The Phoenix Police Department put out a bulletin in 2013, asking the public for helping in identifying the unknown man.

The decedent was described as an African-American male, in his mid 20s, about 6 feet tall and with a tattoo on his left arm.

“Coworkers of the victim believed his name may be Levis Bailey,” the bulletin read. “However, this information could not be verified.”

Christen Eggers, an investigator with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, said she’s not sure why her office never got the two missing persons reports that were allegedly filed, which could have helped identify Bailey’s body.

Bailey’s case was one of several that went cold over the years in Arizona, with no leads that might result in an identification.

Eggers began looking into Bailey several years ago, trying to trace any old records of him in Casa Grande. The farm he worked on no longer existed, and Eggers couldn’t find any medical records from the old Casa Grande hospital.

But a grant her office received in 2009 from the National Institute of Justice allowed investigators to re-open dozens of cold cases, including Bailey’s, and apply modern investigative techniques.

The funding allowed investigators to exhume unidentified bodies, collect post-mortem DNA samples and enter the DNA profiles into a database.

Last year, Dockery and her nephew submitted DNA tests in the hopes of possibly finding a match with an unclaimed body. The results matched with the man who collapsed in Casa Grande.

When Dockery found out her DNA matched with the body in Arizona, she said she was “furious.”

“I don’t know what happened,” Dockery said. “Somebody dropped the ball somewhere.”

She said she routinely called detectives in Arizona at least once a month over the last 35 years, asking for any updates in finding her brother. She finds it curious nobody was ever able to make a connection between Bailey and the unknown man.

Eggers said protocols and technology have changed over time so it’s much easier to identify unknown remains. Out of the estimated 600 unidentified people her office examines each year, she said no more than 10 remain unidentified.

Bailey was originally buried as “John Doe” in a Maricopa County cemetery. After he was identified last year, Eggers said, a new headstone was placed on Bailey’s grave with his correct name.

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