San Diego police released a remarkably lifelike sketch on Thursday of a John Doe murdered 40 years ago.
The man's body was discovered early in Scripps Ranch on the morning of Sept. 28, 1981, after firefighters extinguished a dumpster fire behind the Big Bear Super Market in the 9900 block of Mira Mesa Boulevard. The fire was reported at about 5 a.m. by workers who smelled smoke behind the grocery store.
Fire investigators said there was evidence the body had been put in the dumpster, doused with gasoline, then set on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence -- the man's body.
The area near where the body was burned shares little resemblance with what it looks like today -- across the street, it was mostly vacant lots with a few scattered industrial buildings, while now it's a busy street lined with apartments and businesses and a nearby high school.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
Since the time of the killing, SDPD homicide detectives have struggled to identify the victim. Working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which came up with an artist's rendering of what they believe the victim looked like at the time of his death, detectives have now decided that the victim was 33 years old, give or take five years, and was not a teen, as was originally believed. Investigators arrived at that revised age estimate based on dental work that had recently been re-examined.
The victim was between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, and is thought to have weighed around 130 pounds. The man is believed to have had wavy auburn hair -- but his eyebrows are brown -- and brown eyes.
Investigators said there was a $1,000 reward being offered for any information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information about the victim’s identity or his murder is being urged to call San Diego police at 619-531-2293 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477.