On May 27, 1987, a crew of state workers were busy trying to repair the shoulder on Interstate-81 in Rockbridge County, Va. As they reached mile marker 183, they made a gruesome discovery…
The remains of a decomposing adult male.
He was wearing blue jeans with a brown belt, with a square belt buckle that had a longhorn steer on it, a shirt with a specialist 4 rank insignia on the sleeve, white socks with green and yellow stripes at the ankles, a heavy brown coat with fur interior, and brown slipover shoes.
Also found on the body was a pair of glasses that looked very much like the ones that were issued by the Veterans Administration. The glasses were for nearsightedness, the prescription (strictly to be as thorough as possible) was:
Right O.D. -2.25 Spherical 5ph Cylindrical
Left OS -2.25 Spherical 5ph Cylindrical
BC 4.25 OV
Single vision clear glass
He was also wearing a chain with a crucifix, and other items in his belongings were a cassette tape, cigarette lighter, switchblade knife, notepad, and $10.12 cash.
Upon closer examination, LE noticed that there was a name written on the notepad, along with some other identifying information: John Swartz, and he drove a truck for JB Hunt.
Once LE began running down this lead, a quick check with the company determined there was an employee named John Swartz and that he had been in the area a week or so prior.
LE was able to track down Mr. Swartz, questioning him about the murdered man they found along the side of I-81. Swartz confessed to murdering him. Several days prior to his body being discovered. According to Swartz, he had departed from Little Rock, AR on May 16, 1987 to make a delivery to Edison, NJ. Along the way he stopped at a Petro Station in Wytheville, Va and spoke with the man. He gave his name as Chris, and told Swartz that he’d been stranded at the station for 2 days without food. Chris was apparently trying to reach a location to go camping, however Swartz couldn’t recall where. He offered to pay Chris in exchange for helping him unload his truck once he reached his destination in NJ, to which Chris agreed.
On May 18, 1987 the truck was unloaded and Swartz paid Chris $50 for assisting. Afterwards, Chris and Swartz got into an argument concerning the amount of money that had been paid. Chris wanted $100 and some of Swartz’s personal belongings from the truck, and had threatened to turn him in for having an unauthorized rider in his truck.
While at a truck stop in Raphine, VA, Chris allegedly pulled a switchblade knife out on Swartz and threatened him again over the money. They left the truck stop and after traveling several more miles down the interstate, Swartz pulled his truck over onto the shoulder of the road, telling Chris that he had to relieve himself. Once Chris exited the truck himself, Swartz shot him twice. Once in the abdomen and once in the head. He then did his best to dispose of Chris and his possessions.
The true identity of “Chris” remains an absolute mystery, and to be quite honest with you, I’m not too sure how much of this guys story I actually believe. I mean if you’re traveling with someone who is repeatedly threatening you, why not just leave him at one of the truck stops you know you’ll eventually be stopping at. Murdering him seems like an extreme reaction to me, and of course, since Chris is deceased he can’t tell his side of the story.
Age: 20-40 years
Weight: 150 Lbs
CoD: Gunshot (homicide)
ME/C Case#: W1987-45587
Swartz was convicted for the murder of “Chris” Doe and ultimately died in prison after an altercation with another inmate.
If you think you know who Chris is, please contact the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at 540-561-6615.