Skeletal remains found in brush along Mass. highway nearly 40 years ago identified as murder victim

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. — Skeletal remains that were found in the brush along a Massachusetts highway have been identified through DNA as the victim of a homicide nearly four decades after a driver who stopped in the breakdown lane made the startling discovery.

On April 8, 1985, a motorist traveling on Interstate 195 in Fairhaven stopped in a westbound breakdown lane just beyond the Mattapoisett town lane and spotted the remains resting about 45 feet from the roadway, Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn said in an announcement on Tuesday. Police and crime scene personnel responded to the area but didn’t find any information related to the identity of the deceased following a thorough search.

The skeletal remains were sent to the FBI lab in Washington, D.C., where tests revealed that the remains were that of a man who was killed within a few years prior to the discovery. Investigators also determined that a pair of shoes found at the scene were manufactured in 1981.

“Attempts to use dental records to compare and identify this individual with other missing persons cases were not successful. Investigators released information to the media seeking the public’s assistance in identifying this individual. These efforts, however, were also unsuccessful,” Quinn’s office said in a statement. “Left with little else to go on, investigators made a facial reconstruction of the skull to recreate the facial features and appearance of the man prior to his death. A portrait of the recreation was distributed to the media with hopes that this would lead to an identification, but this too was unsuccessful. Without any other available options, this individual remained unidentified for the next 38 years.”

As part of Quinn’s “Unidentified Bodies Project,” which is an ongoing effort to identify unidentified bodies, a private laboratory in Texas recently teamed up with the FBI’s Investigative Genetic Genealogy team to help identify the remains.

Investigators were able to identify the remains as those of 27-year-old Cranston, Rhode Island, native Keith Olson through the use of forensic genetic genealogy, which is a process that compares the developed profile to thousands of other DNA profiles and establishes a family tree, according to Quinn’s office.

Olson, who had been missing since April 1981, was dating a woman at the time of his disappearance. Investigators said that their relationship “resulted in friction” between Olson and North Providence resident John Broccoli, who had previously been involved with the same woman.

“A witness to Olson’s disappearance described that two men escorted Olson from his Cranston apartment. On the same day that Olson was last seen, Broccoli made cryptic statements to the woman who had been dating Olson,” Quinn’s office said. These statements suggested Broccoli’s possible involvement in this matter.”

Broccoli, who was also known as Michael Corleone, died in 2019 at the age of 63.

Investigators are now turning to the public for any information connected to Olson’s disappearance and murder.

“Police have strong reason to believe that the crime was committed by at least two people and believe that there are individuals who could provide helpful information to solve this crime,” Quinn’s office stated.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Massachusetts State Police Detective Lt. Ann Marie Robertson at 855-627-6583.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW