ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. — A severed foot found in Mississippi in 2019 has led Louisiana police to the identity of a man found dismembered along a rural stretch of highway in 2016.
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office officials announced on Friday that the badly decomposed body found along U.S. 90 six years ago has been identified as 72-year-old Kleanthis Konstantinidis. Little is known about Konstantinidis, who authorities said died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The primary suspect in Konstantinidis’ death, Phillip Pointer, of Biloxi, died of natural causes in April 2019, according to NOLA.com. As police investigated Pointer’s death, they made a gruesome discovery under his mobile home: a severed foot tucked inside a bucket.
DNA testing proved that the foot belonged to the man found three years earlier near the Rigolets, an 8-mile deep-water strait that connects Lake Pontchartrain to Lake Borne.
According to authorities, a landowner called the sheriff’s office the morning of July 29, 2016, to report finding a body on the side of U.S. 90, just east of the intersection with Old Spanish Trail. The man’s arms were missing, as was one leg that had been severed just below the knee.
The DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit organization that helped identify Konstantinidis, said investigators theorized that the limbs were removed to hide tattoos or prominent scars.
“Due to the level of decomposition, age and race were unable to be determined,” St. Tammany Parish officials said in 2016. “The only distinguishable mark was a scar on the victim’s chest from a prior open heart bypass surgery.”
Information from the man who found the body allowed detectives to determine that he had been killed elsewhere and dumped near the intersection overnight on July 28, 2016. According to NOLA.com, the landowner had been on the property at dusk that day and saw nothing amiss.
The St. Tammany Parish coroner found that the man had been killed days to weeks before his body was dumped. Dr. Charles Preston told the media in April 2019 that evidence at the scene indicated the man may have been killed somewhere on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The evidence also indicated that either John Doe or his killer might have had ties to the Gulf Coast.
Unbeknown to Preston, authorities in Biloxi that same month investigated Pointer’s death and found the slain man’s decomposed foot under his home.
St. Tammany detectives were unable to identify their John Doe, so they turned in late 2016 to Parabon Nanolabs, a Virginia-based company that specializes in advanced DNA testing, including DNA phenotyping. The man’s DNA showed that he was a white man with fair skin, brown or hazel eyes and dark brown hair that was likely graying because he was estimated to be 65 or older.
He was also determined to have Southern European or mixed European and Middle Eastern ancestry, according to Parabon.
Sheriff’s office officials released the information from Parabon but were still unable to identify the victim.
Investigators got their first real break in 2019 after DNA testing of the foot found in Biloxi matched the DNA on file for the Louisiana John Doe.
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith told WGNO in New Orleans that the discovery of the foot sparked new leads in the investigation. Detectives conducted several interviews and found new evidence.
The biggest break in the case would come through the help of the DNA Doe Project and Louisiana State University’s FACES Lab, which created a clay bust and composite drawings of the unidentified man.
Volunteers with the DNA Doe Project, using his DNA profile, combed through genealogy websites in search of John Doe’s relatives.
Detectives were able to identify a relative living in the northern part of the country, authorities said. That relative provided a DNA sample to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, which was then able to positively identify the dead man as Konstantinidis.
The investigation into his murder continues as cold case detectives attempt to find where Konstantinidis died.
“I applaud our investigators who worked this very complicated case and sought out available resources and technology to identify the victim,” Smith said in a statement. “I am thankful for the cooperation between our detectives, the St. Tammany Coroner’s Office DNA Lab, the LSU FACES Lab, the DNA Doe Project, Parabon NanoLabs and the Biloxi Police Department. They all played a role in identifying our victim and locating his next of kin.”
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