Indiana News

Peru, Indiana, man ID’d as victim of 1980s serial killer Larry Eyler

PERU, Ind. (WISH) — A man who was murdered by an infamous serial killer in 1982 and whose body was found a year later in Jasper County has finally been identified.

A forensic services company based out of Massachusetts — Redgrave Research Forensic Services — successfully identified the John Doe as William Joseph “Bill” Lewis, 19, of Peru, Indiana.

On Oct. 15, 1983, Lewis’s skeletal remains were discovered on a private plot of land in a rural area outside of Rensselaer. His remains were discovered by a man checking and setting fox traps in the area.

Authorities determined that the remains belonged to a white male, 18 to 26 years of age, with shoulder-length reddish-brown hair. His death was ruled a homicide, and it was determined that he had been dead one to two years.

More than a decade later — in 1994 — convicted serial killer Larry Eyler confessed to murdering the man, along with 20 other young men and boys.

Eyler said that he had picked up the man, who was hitchhiking, sometime during the weekend of Nov. 20, 1982, along U.S. Route 41 in the Vincennes area.

“They had drank some beer and taken some drugs, and they wound up here in Jasper County, where he basically bound him and gagged him, assaulted and killed him,” said Jasper County Coroner Andrew Boersma.

Eyler then disposed of Lewis’s remains.

Despite confessing to the murder, Eyler was unable to provide a name or other relevant information to identify the victim. Lewis remained unidentified for nearly four decades.

In January, Redgrave Research approached the Jasper County Coroner’s Office to offer assistance in identifying the John Doe. From January to September, the victim’s DNA was processed. Just six days after the DNA was processed, Redgrave Research found a potential candidate for identification.

A DNA sample was taken from a full sibling of the candidate and was compared to that of the victim. According to Redgrave Research, this confirmed the victim’s identity as Lewis.

“Growing up my dad always told us the mob got him — I think it was just a joke,” said Joshua Schuck, Lewis’ nephew.

Lewis will be buried next to his father in Peru.

“My grandmother never did accept anything till the day she died — she said he was still out there,” said Schuck.

Schuck asked people who knew his uncle what he was like growing up.

“He played football in high school. He was real quiet — kind of kept to himself,” he said.  

Lewis is the second victim of Eyler to be identified this year.

John Brandenburg Jr., 19, of Chicago, whose remains were found at a farm in Newton County, was identified in April.

Brandenburg was one of four men found on a farm off U.S. Route 41 about a half-mile north of State Road 10 near Lake Village. Mushroom hunters had discovered two skulls on Oct. 18, 1983, and investigators found the four men in shallow graves.

By December 1983, two of the four murder victims had been identified via dental records as Michael Bauer and John Bartlett. The other victim found at the farm, known as Adam Doe, remains unidentified.

According to Redgrave Research, Eyler was responsible for a rash of murders across Indiana and Illinois in the early 1980s. Many of his victims were hitchhikers, sex workers or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The murders ended with the arrest of Eyler, who was convicted on just two counts of homicide. He was sentenced to death, but died in 1994 from AIDS-related complications before his execution.