If you’re as interested in the true crime world as I have been for the past however many years, then I can almost guarantee that you’ve probably heard about the Doe Network. Something that isn’t yet replicated here in the United Kingdom.


The Doe Network is a database website, that lists missing people and also those who are as of yet unidentified. It’s used as a tool for generating leads, raising awareness and for helping law enforcement to notice potential matches. The website is across lists cases from various parts of the world, buy predominantly the United States. You only have to visit the website briefly to see just how many cases are listed. There are thousands.


Able to search by chronologically or geographically, it’s easy to spend a few hours browsing through the numerous unsolved.


Over the years, several cases have been solved via this platform and from time to time, I spend some time exploring.


A few years ago, I noticed something particularly interesting under the ‘Florida-Male’ section.


Firstly, I can’t even remember why I was on there in the first place but probably I’d been reading about a missing person case and was searching to see if I could find any matches. It was while in this rabbit hole that I noticed five Doe drawings that we listed together, each having clearly been drawn by the same person. But it got more interesting, as I quickly realised that they all had the same date of discovery. They were clearly linked, and I had never heard of them.


It turned out that they were five of the Fort Myers Eight, a body deposition that had been discovered in 2007. Unidentified, unsolved but linked to a convicted killer who was suspected of being a serial offender, it was a case I needed to know more about.


By the time I came to write this blog post, there were only four still listed but when I started my research, I found out that there were many more connected.


In today’s post, we’re going to discuss the Fort Myers Eight, a relatively unknown suspected serial killer and the other victims that deserve to be named.

The finding of the Fort Myers Eight

On the 23rd of March 2007, two human skills were discovered in a wooded area near Rockfill and Arcadia Streets by a land surveyor.


The area is remote and isolated, with the roads consisting of sandy paths.


The area was subsequently searched by Fort Myers police with the assistance of area agencies, cadaver dogs and forensic experts. As a result of this search, a total of eight sets of skeletal remains were discovered.


The police found no clothing, no remains of coffins, body bags or anything else to suggest how the bodies had ended up there. Additionally, there was nothing to suggest that anyone had attended the scene recently.


The eight skeletons were all male and they quickly became known as the “Fort Myers Eight”, each having been found within 50 yards of each other. Investigations were later to estimate that all had been murdered and placed here between 1987 and 2001.


While the cause of death was homicide, no exact method of murder could be identified due to decomposition. However, there were no obvious signs of trauma to the bones.


The forensic investigation estimated that all were between 18 and 49, with seven of the eight having received a good level of dental care.


In 2007 and 2008, the police were able to identify three of the victims using DNA.


When I first heard about this case and started to think about this blog post, the idea was to write about the five unidentified. However, between then and now, that number has been brought down because in 2022 authorities identified one further victim.


However, there are officially four still unidentified of those discovered in 2007. However, there are other further John Doe’s who could also be linked to this case.


Based on what has since bene uncovered, it’s now believed that all are victims of the same serial killer.

What we know about Daniel Conahan?

Daniel Owen Conahan Jr is a convicted rapist and killer, but police believe that he is a serial killer.


To date, he’s only been convicted of one murder, but the police have linked him to a dozen different bodies. Most of the suspected victims are transients who were seeking out employment and many were also from the LGBTQ+ community.


Who was Conahan?


Daniel Owen Conahan was born on the 11th of May 1954 to a middle-class family in North Carolina. However, shortly after his birth, his family moved to Punta Gorda in Florida.


It’s said that as a teenager, Conahan told his parents that he was homosexual, something that was said to have displeased them. In a move that most of us would now agree is inappropriate, they arranged for their son to see several psychiatrists.


This was said to have had a grave impact on him – and while not an excuse for his subsequent crimes – friends later recounted that it had traumatised him. He is said to have told him that he didn’t believe that his homosexuality was a disease and that he was angry at how his parents had treated him.


Behind the scenes, Conahan was proud of who he was and later admitted to the police that he thought ‘being gay was part of God’s plan’. While enjoying gay bars, Conahan was said to have been a loner and someone who found basic social interactions difficult.


In 1977, Conahan joined the US a navy and was stationed at the Naval Station in Grand Lankes Illinois.


The following year, in 1978, he was nearly court-martialled for taking another officer off base for sex. He was eventually discharged in 1978, after he got himself into a fight with a man on whom he’d tried to force into oral sex.


Publicly, his story goes quiet for 13 years, but it’s said that he remained in Chicago during this time.


In 1993, he moved back home and lived with his elderly parents while he trained to become a nurse. He graduated top of his class and took a job that the Charlotte Regional Medical Center in Punta Gorda.


It was during this time that he began to frequent local gay bars again, later telling investigators that it was the same time that he discovered sex workers. Telling them that: “I learned there are a lot of hitchhikers on U.S. 41 from North Port to Fort Myers, and some of them were looking to perform sex acts for money.”


It’s also around this time that Conahan becomes linked to a number of unsolved crimes, as well as the eventual murder for which he is now convicted.


That crime – the one for which he was found guilty – will be discussed a bit further into this blog post. However, it’s important for us to also outline those for which he is still suspected.


Those being the Fort Myers Eight, Doe 3303UMFL and the Hog Trial murders.


As of May 2023, Conahan is only convicted of one murder and while he is said to be the prime suspect in the other cases, he remains only a suspect.

The Hog Trail Murders

Between 1993 and 1996, the bodies of six men, all of whom had been murdered, were discovered in an area known locally as the Hog Trail. Of the six discovered, Conahan has been directly linked – and convicted – of one of the murders but he is believed to be responsible for them all.


On the 1st of February 1994, a mutilated corpse of a man was discovered in Punta Gorda, near to the Biscayne Boulevard. Forensic experts estimated that the body had been there for around a month and several rope burns were identified in the pelvic region. The man’s genitalia had been removed and had been discarded within the area. In 2021, this victim was identified as 27-year-old Gerald Lombard, having been identified by DNA. The family confirmed that ‘Jerry’ had gone missing from his home in Florida in 1991 and that he was known to have been a drifter.


On the 1st of January 1996, a North Port family’s dog brought home a male human skull, having dropped it in front of a house on Plamedon Road. According to the residents, this had been happening for months, as the dog had brought home numerous bones from the woods. Police conducted a search, and, in the end, they recovered the chest and hipbones around half a mile from the residence. Eventually, police were to locate even more of the remains with some of the bones still having flesh attached. The cause of death was undetermined, but the medical examiner was able to note that the body had been severely mutilated, particularly around the genitalia. This body has never been identified and is commonly referred to as the Sarasota County John Doe.


On the 7th of March 1996, a man travelling down Route 75 in North Port, Florida stumbled across the body of a naked man. The driver had pulled off onto Laramie Circle to urinate. The body was positioned face-up in the shape of a cross, just passed the forest line. The man immediately called the police. The man was killed around 10 days before he was discovered, and the cause of death was stabbing. The victim had four stab wounds and his genitals were badly mutilated. His feet were scraped and cut, with the medical examiner drawing the conclusion that the victim had tried to run away from his killer. The rope marks on his body suggested that he had been tied up, with rope marks on a nearby tree seeming to support this theory. The victim was named on the 30th of June 1999, with it being revealed that he was 35-year-old, William John Melaragno.


On the 17th of April 1996, a police search was initiated, and another skull was uncovered. During this search the rest of the body was located, as well as the remains of a second man. The first body had been dismembered and was later identified a 25-year-old Kenneth Lee Smith. According to media, his sister had called the police after seeing an appeal for information regarding a specific tattoo that was ‘just’ visible on this body.


The second body was that of a man who had been raped, murdered, and mutilated just one day prior to his discovery. This man was 21-year-old Richard Allen Montgomery and his is the murder for which Conahan has been convicted. A few days before his death, Allen had advised his mother that he had met a new friend named Dan Conahan. It was at this point that the media began to consider if there was a serial killer in the area, with said killing having been given the nickname the ‘Hog Trial killer’ after the area in which the bodies were found.


In May of 1996, shortly after the bodies were discovered, witnesses pointed the investigation in the direction of Daniel Conahan. One of whom had escaped an attempted abduction, able to run when Conahan’s car became stuck while driving down a dirt road.


Police were eventually able to link Conahan to this reported assault, which had been reported to them in 1994 by Stanley Burden.


His credit card records were subpoenaed, and his house was searched, with evidence uncovered which linked him to the assault on Burden and the murder of Montgomery.


Subsequently, on the 3rd of July 1996, Conahan was arrested and brought to Lee County for the attempted murder of Burden. In February 1997, these charges were dropped and instead, he was charged with the murder of Montgomery.


On the 9th of August 1999, Conahan waived his right to a jury trial and elected the bench option. In a bench option the judge is the sole decider, reaching a verdict in much the same way as the jury, by assessing the presented evidence. This method is often chosen where a suspect feels the jury might be prejudiced or there are certain legal aspects that might require expert understanding.


In this case, Conahan’s attorney argued that this decision was made because Conahan was afraid that a conservative jury would be prejudiced toward him because he was a gay man and was interested in bondage.


The prosecution alleges that Conahan lured Montgomery to the woods by offering him money for nude, bondage images. They allege that he raped him, murdered him, and then removed his genitals in a bid to remove his DNA from the body. The cause of death was found to have been strangulation.


The prosecution’s star witness was Stanley Burden, who police believed had nearly been killed by Conahan in 1994. His testimony was pivotal, as he’d had a similar incident to that which was being accused. He told the court that Conahan had offered him $150 to pose nude while being tied to a tree. He agreed, and accompanied Cohan into the woods. However, while there, the experience turned into an attempted rape and attempted murder.


The defence attempted to rebut this theory, discrediting Burden as he was a then convicted paedophile.


However, the theory was also supported by two undercover officers who recounted a similar story. Having posed as gay men, they too were offered money for nude images by Conahan. The officers had been picked as they represented the killer’s type – blonde, attractive young men.


There was also a small amount of physical evidence which linked the two scenes. Fibres found on Montgomery were a perfect match for those found in Conahan’s home and car. A paint chip found in Montgomery’s pubic hair also matched paint on a car that was registered to Conahan’s father. The chip itself was unique as it was made with four specific layers.


It doesn’t seem to have worked and on the 17th of August 1999, Judge William Blackwell found Conahan guilty of first-degree murder and premeditated kidnapping. He’d deliberated for just 25 minutes. Further legal appeals ensured that the sentencing phase was moved to a different area and a jury were then brought in.


In November 1997, the jury recommended the death sentence and on the 10th of December, Judge Blackwell agreed. He is currently housed at Union Correctional Institute in Raiford, Florida.


While Conahan was awaiting his trial for murder, several further skeletons were discovered in Florida.


The first was found on the 22nd of May 1997 in Port Charlotte, Florida. A constriction worker was clearing brush from a dirt path when he discovered the remains of a man under a pepper tree near Quesada Avenue. The coroner determined that the victim had been dead for several years, later identified to be have been four. The remains were later identified, via DNA, as 24-year-old William Charles Patten who had disappeared in 1993.


Over the next few years, another four bodies were discovered.


       On the 19th of October 2000, another skeletal body was discovered in a wooded area of Toledo Blae Boulevard in North Port.

       In the January 2001, landscapers uncovered human bones on Grouper Hole Drive in Boca Grande.

       On the 28th November 2001, during constriction near US 41 in Charlotte Harbour, construction crews discovered male human remains.

       On the 6th of January 2002, a man was discovered near a landfill site near Zemel Road in Punta Gorda. Known as the Charlotte County John Doe, t he victim was murdered.


All of these have been linked to Conahan but his involvement in their deaths has never been proven.

The Fort Myers Eight


On the 23rd March 2007, eight skulls and corresponding skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area in Fort Myers. A find that was the biggest discovery in the state’s history. The eight found, came to be known as the ‘Fort Myers Eight’.


The circumstances of this were outlined in the opening section of this blog post.


At first, police questioned whether there was a connection to a funeral home that had once been in the area, but which had closed. However, there was no clothing, body bags, or coffins located – nothing which suggested the victims had been handled legitimately.


The police’s attention quickly turned to Conahan. The location where the Fort Myers Eight were discovered was very close to where Stanley Burden – the star witness at Conahan’s first trial – was attacked.


In November 2007, the first of Fort Myers Eight was identified, with him being reunited with his name John Blevins. He was a 28-year-old transient who had been living in the local area. He had a minor criminal record and had disappeared in 1995 but had not been reported missing. According to his mother, he’d told her that he had plans to go out but that he would return later that day.


Shortly after, a second of the victims was identified, this time named as 21-year-old Erik David Kohler. He disappeared from Port Charlotte at some time during the October of 1995.


In September 2006, 24-year-old Jonathan James Tihay, was named as the third victim to have been identified. He was a drifter who had last been seen in October 1995 when he called his mother to ask her for more money.


Finally, in September of 2022, a further victim was identified as 30-year-old Robert Ronald Soden. He was last seen in 1996.


Unfortunately, the other victims remain unidentified.


At the time of writing this post, Conahan remains in prison and is sitting on North Carolina’s death row. He continues to deny the murder for which he is convicted and of having been responsible for any of the other crimes of which he is suspected.

Some of the unknown victims

When I first started this article, my only focus was on the four of the eight Fort Myers victims, but it felt important to include all the unknown. However, some of the victims are not listed on the Doe Network and it was hard to find information on them.

I’ve therefore included all of those that have Doe profiles.


  • Discovered: 6th January 2002
  • Location: Punta Gorda, Charlotte County, Florida
  • Estimated date of death: months prior
  • State of remains skeletal
  • Cause of death: homicide
  • Aged between 30 and 59 years old
  • Race: unknown, possibly mixed
  • Height: 5ft3-5ft11
  • Weight: 125-175lbs
  • No known hair colour, eye colour or distinguishing features
  • No clothing but the victim did have a gold watch


  • Discovered: 23rd March 2007 in Fort Meyers, Lee Country Florida
  • Estimated date of death: 1987 – 2001
  • State of remains: Skeletal remains
  • Cause of death: Homicide
  • Age: 26-45 years
  • Race: White or Hispanic
  • Sex: Male
  • Height: 5-5ft7
  • Distinguishing features: During his life, he was injured in both calves and ankles. He had a healed fracture to his right ribs and chest. Periostitis of his calf bones and left forearm. Defect of sternum (congenital vs. trauma). He may have lived a transient lifestyle.
  • Dentals are available for identification. However, there was no current dental care. He had large unfilled cavities, an abscess, old silver fillings and periodontal disease. He had three of four wisdom teeth. But this was consistent with US standards.
  • No fingerprints but there is DNA.
  • There was no clothing or jewellery.


  • Discovered: 23rd March 2007 in Fort Meyers, Lee Country Florida
  • Estimated date of death: 1987 – 2001
  • State of remains: Skeletal remains
  • Age: 18-35
  • Race: White or Hispanic
  • Sex: Male
  • Height: 5ft8-6ft3
  • Distinguishing features: described a tall man with a possible limp, which experts believe might help identify him. Had a fractured right wrist.
  • Dental: Available. He had current dental work and silver fillings on his posterior teeth. He had all four wisdom teeth.
  • No fingerprints but DNA.


       Discovered: 23rd March 2007 in Fort Meyers, Lee Country Florida

       Estimated date of death: 1987 – 2001

       State of remains: Skeletal remains

       Age: 24-45

       Race: White

       Sex: Male

       Height: 5ft4-5ft10 and medium build

       Distinguishing features: Some occupational injuries, possibly from hard work. Arthritis noted in his back and hip suggests he may have had ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Fractures to the right ribs (8-10) and lumbar vertebrae 4 and 5.

       Dental: Available. Evidence of good dental care. Two composite fillings in his posterior teeth of an older material, he had no silver fillings. All four wisdom teeth were present.

       No fingerprints but DNA.


       Discovered: 23rd March 2007 in Fort Meyers, Lee Country Florida

       Estimated date of death: 1987 – 2001

       State of remains: Skeletal remains

       Age: 25-35

       Race: White

       Sex: Male

       Height: 5ft4-5ft10 and medium build

       Distinguishing features: Healed right clavicle fracture and right fibula fracture, both nasal bones and a herniated vertebra.

       Dental: He had no wisdom teeth and had two older type crowns. He also had orthodontics, including the extraction of four premolars.

       No fingerprints but DNA.

If you have any information on this case…

There’s a known factor in true crime that tends to determine the level of coverage a certain case receives – and it’s something that has been brought to the spotlight in recent years.

Traditionally, there are certain cases that garner huge media coverage, those that tend to involve a set victim type. And as hard as that might be for us to acknowledge, it’s now accepted that the kind of media attention your case will receive is often decided by your race, gender, sexuality, and class.

It’s surprising to me that I’ve never heard of this case before, particularly as I consume a large amount of true crime content. Now, I am British, that I will accept and perhaps, it’s different across the pond. But most of the content I consume is American in origin.

My expectation here is that this case has not received the coverage it deserves because of the victim profile. Namely, that the men were gay and, that many of them transient.

Most of us all will accept that this is unacceptable, and that’s why I’m now trying to cover as many of the lower profile cases as I conceivably can.

These victims are victims, and they deserve to have their stories told and their identities returned to them.

Consider sharing this blog post on your platforms but most importantly, contact authorities if you know anything.

If you have any information on this case, please contact the Fort Myers police.


Kay Page