Depictions of tattoos on an unidentified man found dead in Hewitt in 1978 with a single gunshot wound. Hewitt police launched a Facebook page Wednesday in hopes of sparking new tips in the city’s oldest cold case. Hewitt Police Department photo
In April 1978, a worker found the body of an unidentified man in a Hewitt drainage culvert, prompting a homicide investigation that has become the Hewitt Police Department’s oldest unsolved case.
Thirty-eight years later, local law enforcement hope modern technology and the reach of social media will help them solve the murder of “Disco Dan,” whose real identity remains a mystery.
On April 3, 1978, the body of an unknown man, likely in his 20s to 30s, was found in a drainage culvert in a vacant field, near Spring Valley Road and South Haven Drive, just east of Hewitt Drive.
A Hewitt man working in the field discovered the body, which had a single gunshot wound, and notified Hewitt police, a two-man operation back in the late 1970s.
“Back then, the department was really small, and I don’t think they had the manpower to devote to a murder case, so it was taken over by the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office,” Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said.
“Through the years, it just got lost in the shuffle. When I became police chief in 2012, I knew we had some cold cases, so I asked my staff to bring me what we had on them so we could come up with a plan on solving these cases.
Somewhere, somehow, the people who did this deserve justice. Now we are trying to go back in time and take a look at finding who did this to this man.”
The department now has three cold cases remaining.
Disco Dan is described as 5 feet 8, about 128 pounds, with brown eyes, shoulder-length light brown hair, a moustache and a small goatee.
Three notable tattoos were found on his body, including a cross inside a heart outline on his upper left arm, the word “Peace” on his left forearm in capital letters, and the letters “RB” on his upper right arm.
At the time of his death, he was wearing Levi’s jeans, brown boots, a long-sleeved shirt with a dark blue and white floral pattern and a white puka shell necklace with black beads.
A Snoopy medallion was found next to his body.
“Because of the time period and when I first saw this case, the first thing I noticed was his shirt that looks like a typical 1970s disco shirt, so I aptly named him ‘Disco Dan,’ ” Devlin said. “It seems catchy, but we don’t want anyone to assume this man’s name is Dan, because we really don’t know.”
Authorities at the time of the man’s death determined the body was in the culvert for a few days before it was discovered. Police did not think he was killed where his body was discovered.
Hewitt detective Sgt. Chad Kasting was assigned the case and has continued to follow up on information for the past few years before Hewitt Assistant Chief Tuck Saunders came up with the idea for a community Facebook page for Disco Dan.
Saunders got the idea from a colleague who developed a similar page for a case in Louisiana, Devlin said.
Devlin said the exact location of Disco Dan’s final resting place remains a mystery.
He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in McLennan County Restland Cemetery, 2916 S. 9th St.
“We have located the vicinity of where his body is in the pauper’s grave, but back then, these graves were unmarked,” Devlin said. “We know the area is 100 yards by 100 yards, but picking out a specific grave for him is next to impossible.”
Authorities worked with Texas Rangers in the past several years, and a sketch artist with the Texas Department of Public Safety created a new depiction of Disco Dan. With the sketch in hand, Hewitt police launched the Facebook community page Wednesday to push out information to reignite the case, Devlin said.
“We have gone back through every piece of paper we have that has anything to do with this investigation . . . to try and figure out any information about this individual,” Devlin said. “Identifying him is the key piece, because we know he died at the hands of someone else, but if we can just find out who he is, this name will give us a starting point.”
Anyone with information about any missing person matching this description should contact Hewitt Police Department Sgt. Chad Kasting at 666-6272 or the DPS Missing Persons Clearinghouse at 800-346-3243.
Case Number: U1510003 Agency: Hewitt PD
Date Found: 4/3/1978 Age: 20 - 30
Estimated Date of Death: 04/02/1978 Cause of Death: Unknown
Race: White Sex: Male
Height: 5' 08" - 5' 08" Weight: 128 lbs. - 128 lbs.
Eye Color: Brown Hair Color: Brown
State Found: Texas Country Found: USA
Miscellaneous Notes: Decedent had shoulder-length light brown hair & moustache and small goatee, was wearing Levi's-brand blue jeans (size 32), brown Wellington-brand boots (size 10D), white long-sleeved button-down shirt with dark blue floral pattern, white tube socks with red and blue stripes, white puka shell necklace with black beads. A silver-colored "Snoopy" medallion was also found. Decedent had tattoo of a cross within a heart on upper left arm, tattoo of the word "Peace" on top of left forearm and tattoo of the letters "RB" on upper right arm.