Sheriff Mike Kelley and Coroner Pat O’Neil would like to announce that a year-long investigation has come to a conclusion, with the positive identification of a deceased individual discovered in Unincorporated Washington Township near Beecher, Illinois.
On 5/28/19 at approximately 8:48pm Will County Sheriff Investigators and the Will County Coroner’s Office were called to an address in Unincorporated Washington Township for a body that was found inside of a shed. An investigation ensued in an attempt to identify the badly decomposed body. It was determined early in the investigation that the unidentified person died of exposure and no foul play was suspected.
Due to the close proximity of horse stables and rodeos in the area, Will County Sheriff’s Office detectives believed the victim to be a local farm hand or rodeo worker that had been in the area.
The Will County Coroner’s Office enlisted the assistance of Forensic Anthropologist Professor Cris Hughes from the University of Illinois. Professor Hughes provided analysis that indicated the deceased was a male, had Native American features and numerous healed fractures. These injuries are consistent with a rodeo worker. In order to recreate facial features that might be utilized to identify the body, the Coroner’s office enlisted the help of Community Service Officer Beth Buchholtz, Department of Public Safety, Longmont County. Beth is a trained facial/cranial reconstructionist. Working with the skull she was able to develop an image of what the person may have looked like.
Flyers in both English and Spanish were then circulated around the area farms, ranches, and local businesses. The Coroner’s Office was soon contacted by an individual who lived in Bradley, Illinois. This individual claimed the unidentified body may be his cousin, Reynaldo Balleza-Banda. The description fit, and he had not heard from his cousin since February 2019. The Will County Coroners Office then located and contacted Reynaldo’s immediate family residing in Mexico. They indicated they had not heard from Reynaldo since late January, which is unusual.
Further investigation from the Coroner’s Office determined that DNA from the cousin in Bradley, Illinois could be used as a comparison to Reynaldo’s DNA due to the family marriage dynamics.
Detectives with the Will County Sheriff’s Office traveled to Bradley, Illinois and obtained a DNA sample from Reynaldo’s cousin. The DNA was subsequently sent to the Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Lab for comparison.
On 5/18/20 Will County Investigations were contacted by forensic scientist Sarah Ozanick from the Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Lab. Sarah confirmed that the two DNA samples analyzed indicated that the deceased subject found, and the person who provided a DNA swab were in fact closely related. 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.
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 official cause of death is UNDETERMINED.