ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) — Two 1994 unsolved cases in Missouri and Illinois have baffled investigators for decades.
Three investigative agencies in two states came together to solve a 28-year-old mystery.
In January 1994, Steven Asplund was reported missing in Illinois. He was last seen driving a Ford Mustang in Moline, Illinois. Three months later, a barge worker spotted a body in the Mississippi River near the Jefferson Barracks Bridge in St. Louis County, Missouri.
Both cases remained unsolved mysteries until this month when Moline Police Detective Mike Griffin reached out to St. Louis County Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Lindsay Trammell on a hunch after failing to receive any community leads.
“We’d exhausted all efforts with trying to identify him,” Trammell said.
After pouring through the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) database, Griffin noticed a possible match with his unsolved case and one more than 200 miles away in St. Louis County.
“Our unidentified person’s case was very well documented,” Trammell said. “He was buried at a local cemetery called Friedens, so we actually had the plot number or location in the cemetery documented in our records.”
Said Griffin: “It is possible for a body to get downstream that far. It is possible, whether they get caught up in a passing barge, a passing boat, to get towed down there. … It was well within the realm of possibility, and that’s when we began looking farther south.”
DNA testing confirmed St. Louis County’s John Doe was actually Steven Asplund from Moline, Illinois.
“The evidence suggests he went into that water under his own power. Whether he was under the influence or whether he intended to do it, those are the two unknowns,” Griffin said. “But we do know from the evidence that was uncovered in St. Louis that there’s no trauma to the body. He didn’t go in by another’s force.”
Asplund’s family released a statement saying, in part, “The news, while bittersweet, will allow us some closure. We’ll still think of Steve every day, and miss him just the same, but these answers will provide comfort to us and his friends.”
Moline Police Chief Darren Gault praised his detective’s dogged pursuit in solving not one, but two, mysteries.
“Law enforcement is here to serve the community. We have access to a lot of resources and to try to give families closure, whether it is a violent crime or missing person,” he said. “It’s so important for us to try to help them out and give them answers.”
Cold case investigators believe this case could be groundbreaking in not only broadening out a search area, but also showing how different jurisdictions can work together.
Griffin said there are more than 14,000 unidentified remains nationwide that could be connected to missing person cold cases.