Update: John Dial has been found safe.  His sister has spoken to him for the first time in over 50 years.

John Victor Dial, age 23, was last seen in Childress, TX in July 1966.

John Dial joined the United States Air Force at the age of 16.   He served in the 78th Civil Engineer Squadron at Hamilton Air Force Base in California from 1960-1964.

In May 1966, he visited his family in Childress TX, then returned to duty at the Howard Air Force Base in Panama in June 1966.  He contacted his family on July 1, 1966, at which point he notified them that he had married a woman from Panama.  Her name is Elsa Caballero (Dial).

This was the last contact he had with family, except for a phone call in 1985.  He tried to reach his sister, but she was not home and only spoke with one of her children.  He said he was no longer in Panama, but no further details were relayed.  He has not had any recorded income in the US since 1968.

There was an unconfirmed sighting of John in the Childress, TX area in 1990.  By this time, his parents were deceased but John may not have known that.

One of John’s nieces has posted multiple queries around the web for information on his whereabouts.   She believes he may be working as a mechanic, or possibly in the gun trade, here in the United States.   While she posted dates relating to John’s movement within the Air Force, I could not find any information on whether he was formally discharged, or if he was listed as AWOL.   I think this is a very critical piece of information that is missing, for reasons that you will see as you read on.

John’s niece also posted possible contact information for John’s wife, Elsa.  The location of this woman is Panama.   It is known that John and Elsa had at least one child, possibly two.  The name(s) of the child(ren) are unknown, but possible names are Redonna, Verxia, and/or Llorando Dial.

John’s niece expressed reluctance to contact Elsa in Panama, assuming she would not speak English.  She was looking for a Spanish speaker to assist with this, although these posts are from several years ago.  I respectfully, but strongly, disagree.  If she was married to an American serviceman long enough to have children, she speaks some English!  Call her!

John Victor Dial has been suggested as a possible match for this John Doe, which is an interesting story in and of itself.   After committing suicide in his Eastlake, OH apartment, he was quickly identified through dental records as Joseph N Chandler III.   Because he left an $82,000 estate, the probate court attempted to locate his heirs, only to find that the real Joseph N Chandler III was an eight year old boy who died, along with his parents, in a car accident in December 1945.  The crash took place near Sherman, TX.

Once authorities realized that John Doe was not really Joseph Chandler, but rather someone who had taken over his identity, they set out to find out more about John Doe.

They found a record of a request for Joseph Chandler’s birth certificate, followed by a request for a social security card in Joseph’s name, in 1978 from Rapid City, South Dakota.   Authorities believe this was the beginning of John Doe using this alias, and believe he chose Joseph Chandler after viewing headstones at the cemetery in Texas.   It’s believed that John Doe was approximately the same age as Joseph, and the fact that Joseph’s parents had also died meant less likelihood of being caught using his identity.  (The real Joseph Chandler was born in 1937, John Dial in 1943)

Authorities learned that John Doe was a very private man, lived in an apartment  which contained only a few books, a shelf of vitamins, a computer, and a single change of clothes.  He left his apartment only to work, and to eat out.   He worked as an electrical engineer at CDI Corp in Euclid OH, and Lubrizol Corp in Wickliffe, OH.  It’s been reported that John Doe had lived in the Cleveland OH area since 1979, and in this apartment since 1986.

A few curious statements issued by investigators:

John Doe shot himself in the head in his apartment using a .38-caliber Charter Arms handgun that had been purchased at a Western Auto store in Seagoville, TX between 1968 and 1978. The store has been closed for some time and its records destroyed. The gun has never been reported as stolen or missing.

Although they can’t connect the actual time that John Doe walked away from himself, they believe it would have been between 1968 and 1978. At some point, evidence showed, he was in California, worked around or was in the U.S. Navy, and had some electrical engineering experience.

He did electrical engineering work and possibly had been married twice, once to a Cuban woman.

So now come the questions of surrounding circumstances, particularly, what his military situation was.

It’s possible that:

a) He just married, decided to live in Panama, and go on with his life.  (In which case, he would not likely change his identity)

b) His family did not approve of his marriage, thus John purposely did not contact his family (which would still not be a reason to change identities and hide)

c) He went AWOL just as the Vietnam War was heating up and then might  have changed his identity to avoid the consequences of desertion.


(Left: John Victor Dial ca 1966.  Right: John Doe)

It seems that John Dial’s ears were much smaller, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that John Doe had a gun purchased in Texas, a Cuban wife (easily confused with Panamanian), military background, and a timeline that could fit with Dial’s movements.

It should be mentioned that John Doe was suffering from late stage colon cancer, and that is believed to be the reason for the suicide.  There is no indication that any sinister or guilt-related motivations existed.

Or, he could very well still be out there somewhere.  He’d be 70 years old now.


Charley Project

Official Cold Case Investigations



16 thoughts on “John Dial – Found Safe

  1. Hello good I gave.. I believe to have informacion of the person of the publicacion.. I am a granddaughter of the lady elsa gentleman and john victor dial. ..me gustaria to put me in contact with the niece of my grandfather

  2. Hello, I find it hard to communicate in this way .. it would make it easier to communicate through facebook’m always on liry warrior … not if I dial adds

  3. I am the neice of John Victor Dial wanted to state he is alive and well living in Panama. At this time our family are very happy, feel we can finally put closure to this and put the past behind us and move on look to the future. We have been in touch with John. I started my search in 1998 so has been a long road 16 years of searching for answers alot of agencies I been in contact with over the years did alot of the leg work myself the key was getting the police report filed without a police report I would have gotten nowhere.I want to point out As NIJ investigated the challenges of missing persons and unidentified decedent cases, another problem was more fully revealed: the reporting of missing persons cases. Cases of missing persons 18 years old and younger must be reported, but reporting adult missing persons cases is voluntary. Only a handful of States have laws that require law enforcement agencies to prepare missing person reports on adults. Overall, there is a low rate of reporting these cases through NCIC. One of the major goals of NamUs is to meet this challenge. For example, NamUs will work with State clearinghouses and the public to ensure that data is included in NamUs and other national-level databases.

  4. Want to also thank everybody that was involved over the years he became missing in 1966 but, efforts trying to locate him were exhausted in the early 70’s and in 1998 I had a dream woke up in a sweat and I had dreamed about him which took a life of it’s own so I took the job in 1998 by contacting various agencies, getting DNA, getting a age progression done, I had all the pictures information posted on different websites, I never gave up hope he would be found someday I knew if I sit back and waited someone would come forward eventually that recognized the name, the photo. We live in a age now computers, those postings very important. I was checking in on the websites as I did time to time and to my surprize.

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