Canada SEPTIC TANK SAM: W/NM, 26-40, found on farmland in septic tank in Tofino, AB, Canada - 13 April 1977 *GORDIE SANDERSON*



Septic Tank Sam

Septic Tank Sam Cscr-featured
RaceWhite/First Nations
LocationTofield, Alberta
FoundApril 13, 1977
Unidentified for43 years
Postmortem intervalMonths
Body conditionDecomposed
Age approximation26-40
Height approximation5'5" - 5'7"
Weight approximation145 - 165 pounds
Cause of deathHomicide
This case contains graphic content that may not be suitable for all readers.
"Septic Tank Sam" was the name given by investigators to an unidentified man found in a septic tank outside of Tofield, Alberta, Canada in 1977.

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"Sam" was found in a 1.8-meter deep septic tank on an abandoned farmhouse, 13km west of Tofield (a community with strong aboriginal roots), by owners of the property who had been searching the old septic tank for a pump. Investigating officers described his death as "one of the most vindictive and sadistic crimes" that they had ever encountered.

According to the autopsy, he had been tied up and beaten while his body had been repeatedly burned using a small butane blowtorch and cigarettes. He had also been sexually mutilated before he was finally shot in the head and chest. He was then rolled up in a yellow bed-sheet tied with nylon rope and dumped headfirst into the septic tank, which had been partially filled with water.

The killer(s) then dumped limestone into the tank in order to dissolve the body and speed up the rate of decomposition. However, unbeknownst to them, when quicklime is combined with water, only a small degree of superficial burning will occur with a large amount of body tissue becoming dried out, resulting in the body being relatively well-preserved for the time it had spent in the tank. Even so, the remains were so badly mutilated that it took an Edmonton medical examiner months to determine whether the remains were male or female.

Medical examiners sent dental records to over 800 dental practitioners in the Alberta area- even having them published in Canadian dental magazines and nationwide bulletins- but no leads as to his identity were uncovered. He was laid to rest in an unmarked pauper's grave in an Edmonton Cemetery.

His body was exhumed in 1979, and a forensic pathologist named Dr. Clyde Snow from Oklahoma was brought in to reconstruct the skull in order to help with identification. Dr. Snow took numerous measurements of his skull and bones, and input the information into a computer program, which indicated that Sam was likely of aboriginal heritage and approximately 35 years old, disputing the original claim by the medical examiner that he had been a 28-year-old Caucasian man. DNA samples were taken, and facial reconstructions were posted in various newspapers around the country.

The investigators believe that he may have been transient, a migrant worker, or otherwise not a long term resident of Alberta. Based upon his clothing, he is suspected to have been a construction worker or farm laborer. It is likely that his killer(s) knew the area well and chose the remote location in the belief that the body would not be found for a very long time. No evidence was found to suggest that he was murdered on the property itself. The investigation is still ongoing.

  • He still had all of his teeth, some fillings, and had signs of recent dental work.
  • Medium build.
  • Dark hair.
  • His eye color is unknown.
  • Measurements of his hands suggested he was right-handed.
  • Examination of his bones and teeth revealed he suffered from an unspecified illness at five years old.
Clothing 1596988144982.gif
  • Blue 'Levi' work shirt with snap buttons.
  • Gray T-shirt.
  • Blue jeans.
  • Gray wool socks.
  • Brown imitation 'Wallabee' shoes.
Theories 1596988145126.gif
Septic Tank Sam2
Reconstruction by Cyril Chan
Septic Tank Sam Shoe
Approximation of footwear
(not the item recovered with victim)


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Staff member

Man whose burned body was found in septic tank on Alberta farm identified by DNA 44 years later​

A man whose death in Alberta has fascinated armchair detectives for years has finally been identified by the RCMP using genetic genealogy, The Fifth Estate has learned.

The victim, whose name is expected to be released on Wednesday, was nicknamed Septic Tank Sam by the RCMP after he was found in a septic tank at a rural farm just outside Tofield, Alta., on April 13, 1977. The farm was owned by Mavis and Charlie McLeod, both now deceased.


Staff member

Man whose body was found in septic tank on Alberta farm in 1977 was Sixties Scoop survivor, RCMP say​

A man whose burned body was found in a septic tank on an Alberta farm in 1977 has been identified as Gordon Edwin Sanderson.

The RCMP said Wednesday that the remains found on the farm outside Tofield are those of Sanderson, a 26-year-old Indigenous man from Manitoba who had been living in Edmonton.

"He was known as Gordie to his family and friends. Gordie had a hard life. He was separated from his family at nine years old during the Sixties Scoop and placed in foster care," Staff Sgt. Jason Zazulak of the Alberta RCMP major crimes unit said during a virtual news conference.

"He was a resident of Edmonton from the 1970s and was last heard from by family when he was going to meet his younger brother, Arthur, in Calgary. Sadly Gordie did not make it to that meeting."

Police said the investigation into the killing remains open.

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How awful. I never thought they would I.D. this man. As far as solving it IDK. The crime to me seems a very angry, Personal crime. The owners of the property now deceased. How could they have not have known something?.

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