The body of man who was found dead in Washington Township near Beecher has been identified after a yearlong investigation, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office.
Reynaldo Balleza-Banda has been identified as the man who was found about 8:50 p.m. on May 28, 2019, inside of a shed in Washington Township, the sheriff’s office said.
His body was “badly decomposed” and the deputies determined he died of exposure and no foul play was suspected, the sheriff’s office said. Detectives believed he was a local farm hand or rodeo worker because there were horse stables and rodeos nearby, the sheriff’s office said.
The official cause of Balleza-Banda’s death is undetermined.
Balleza-Banda's cousin from Bradley contacted deputies and told them he had not heard from his cousin since February 2019, the sheriff’s office said. Balleza-Banda’s family in Mexico said they had not heard from him since late January 2019.
On May 18, forensic scientist Sarah Ozanick of the Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Lab analyzed the DNA of Balleza-Banda and his cousin and confirmed the two men were closely related, the sheriff’s office said.
“Along with several other aspects of the case, along with the DNA, it was determined that the person found almost a year earlier is that of Reynaldo Balleza-Banda,” the sheriff’s office said.
As part of the investigation, the Will County Coroner’s Office enlisted the assistance of forensic anthropology professor Cris Hughes from the University of Illinois, the sheriff’s office said. Hughes provided analysis that indicated the body was a male, had Native American features and numerous healed fractures that were “consistent with a rodeo worker,” the sheriff’s office said.
In order to recreate facial features that might be used to identify the body, the coroner’s office enlisted the help of Community Service Officer Beth Buchholtz from the Longmont County Department of Public Safety in Colorado.
Buchholtz is a trained facial and cranial reconstructionist and she developed an image of what the person may have looked like, the sheriff's office said.
“Sheriff Mike Kelley and Coroner Pat O’Neil would like to thank all of the individuals that worked tirelessly on this investigation to identify the remains of Reynaldo Balleza-Banda, and ultimately bring closure to a grieving family,” the sheriff’s office said.