The Perplexing 1982 Death Of The Man Known As William L. Toomey

According to the U.S Department of Justice's National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) approximately 4,400 unidentified bodies are found in the U.S each year. While many of these cases go on to be solved, around 1,000 bodies will remain unidentified for over a year and become what is considered a cold case. Despite being the subject of a March 21, 1990 episode of "Unsolved Mysteries," the strange case of William L. Toomey has remained unsolved for 40 years.

In early December of 1982 an unidentified man was found slumped over dead in the pew of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Boise, Idaho. He had suntanned skin, was wearing a turquoise bolo tie, a leather belt that displayed a Mexican peso coin, and was unknown to the church regulars who found him there (via Idaho Press). The man's wallet was devoid of any identifying items; however, there was a note in his other pocket that was signed by "Wm. L. Toomey," along with $1,900 in cash. The ensuing investigation would uncover that this was not the man's real name.

The investigation

Since the only clue the police had was the note and cash they found, the investigation began there. According to Unsolved Mysteries, in its entirety the note says, "In the event of my death, the enclosed currency should give more than adequate compensation for my funeral or disposal (preferred to be cremated) expenditures. What is left over, please take this as a contribution to this church. God will see to your honesty in this." This led the police to believe the man had committed suicide. The autopsy would confirm this when it came back that he had died of cyanide poisoning (via Screenrant).

As the police continued their search for William Toomey, they sent out his fingerprints but got no results in any database. They were unable to find any evidence that this was his name and concluded the name was likely a fake (via Idaho Press). One theory is that when Toomey arrived at the church he had been looking to go to confession (via Idaho Press). Unfortunately he was unable to do so before dying. If he had, the mystery of who he truly was and why he had to decided to commit suicide in the church may have been solved that day. Instead authorities were left grasping at straws with very little to work on.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline‚Äč by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)‚Äč.

Criminal connections?

Since Toomey seemed to have intentionally made it difficult for authorities to identify him, many theories have been floated as to why. The theories, all unproven, range from Toomey being at the center of a major scandal that stunned the country just months prior to being responsible for multiple murders of priests.

Just months before Toomey died from cyanide poisoning, the "Tylenol Murders" had shocked the country. Seven people in Chicago died after consuming Tylenol laced with cyanide. Due to Toomey's deeply suntanned skin and clothing, authorities believed he could have been from the Southwest, potentially Texas, where the cyanide laced Tylenol had been produced (via Idaho Press). While the fact that cyanide was used in both cases was strange, cyanide was not difficult to obtain at the time. Authorities weren't able to find any connection to the "Tylenol murders" besides this speculation.

Authorities had already theorized Toomey was from the southwest when Boise police detective Frank Richardson was able to track down the source of Toomey's belt in Arizona (via Idaho Press). At the time there were three unsolved murders of priests in Texas and Arizona. According to the Idaho Press, Richardson always suspected there was a connection between Toomey and these murders due to Toomey's choice to commit suicide in a church, as well as his apparent connection to the southwest. This was all speculation, as no hard evidence has ever been found to link Toomey to any of the murders. Despite the many theories, William L. Toomey's true identity remains a mystery.