PANA -- It has been a difficult year for the family of 25-year-old Danny Crosby, who had not seen or heard from him since Feb. 27, 2020. They had heard rumors and believed he was likely dead, but did not have any definitive answers.
This past Saturday, the Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation located human skeletal remains in a field near the 2500 block of East 6th Street Road in Pana.
And on Tuesday, the family got the sad news they expected, as Christian County Coroner Amy Calvert Winans identified the remains as that of Daniel T. Crosby. "The positive identification process was able to be completed through dental records and the assistance of our forensic pathologist, dentist, and archaeologist," said Winans.
How he died is unknown and remains the subject of investigation. Authorities said a preliminary evaluation of the skeletal remains revealed no obvious signs of trauma.
The remains were located during a search by DCI Zone 4, the Chris-Mont (Christian and Montgomery County) Emergency Management Agency, the Pana police and fire department, Christian County Sheriff's Office, Christian County Coroner's Office, the fire departments, ISP crime scene services, and other agencies.
They were found in an area to the north and east of the last known location of Daniel Crosby, beyond areas that had previously been searched. Pana Police Chief Daniel Bland said they were located on the north side of 6th Street in a lower area with tall brush that was not visible from the roadway.
The remains were found at least a half-mile from where the car was abandoned and not the direction Crosby would have walked if he was seeking help, authorities said.
Danny's father, Tim Crosby, is a Pana native who lives in Makanda and works at SIU.
"Our family is so very grateful to the Illinois State Police investigators who put in so many hours on Danny's case," he said Saturday, before the remains were positively identified, "and also to the many trained search volunteers who we believe brought him home on Saturday.
"Danny was a wonderful kid and loved by many. There are still questions we have, but we are so grateful to have him back."
Chief Bland said the state police will continue the investigation until a cause of death is known.
"Everything will be looked into to eliminate the possibility of foul play or to work through it, if indicated," Bland said. The Crosby family has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who their son.
He continued, "So many things went against us in this case and there was a lot poured into this and there still is. Obviously, we will go back and scrutinize and learn to do better. The family has suffered."
Bland acknowledged there has been criticism of the department and said investigators were "behind the 8 ball, ISP included."
"We accept full responsibility and criticism for any issues," he added, saying the police department does its best to keep high standards. "Most importantly, our hearts go out to the family."
Bland offered a 2020 timeline of how the investigation was conducted, which explained jurisdictions and repeated searches.
• Feb. 27, 2020: A car ran off the roadway at 7th and Minnesota streets in Pana. It was stuck in mud, but not damaged. It was not registered to Danny Crosby, but to a female out of southern Illinois. Pana police thought someone had slid off road and left the car.
• March 18: Carterville police were notified by Danny Crosby's family that he was missing.
• March 20: The Crosby family talked to Pana police and connected him to the vehicle. At the time the car was discovered, police had tried to find the owner and had seen video of a subject walking away from the car. But no crime had been committed or reported; and when they made the connection and went back to check the video, it had already rolled off the server where it was stored. Pana police sent a canine team out to the Pana Fairgrounds area to check buildings and the broader area.
• March 23: A private company used a drone on the entire area -- fields and timber. Nothing was found.
• March 23-April 22: Police chased down interviews of people who might have had contact with Danny.
• April 22: Carterville police requested their crime squad be allowed to get more involved, as the department where a person resides has authority to request electronic intel.
• May 22: Pana police received information from Carterville police. Bland called ISP and relayed the information.
• May 27: First major search of area with drones, thermal imaging, search teams, CSI, sheriff's police, cadaver dogs and bloodhounds. The search went east of the area and into timber lines. Nothing was discovered, and nothing led to further investigation.
From that point, Bland says, COVID-19 was complicating things, "but we still worked it from May 27 through the summer and received many tips in our area and other areas. Every one was followed up on."
Oct. 21: Bland said police had gotten no traction on leads received. "We wanted to zone back in again on the local area and established another intensive search, but again found nothing."
Bland said that additional leads and tips came in over winter and Pana police and ISP worked them. "Because there was no established further direction, we wanted to squeeze back into that area again and expand again," he said. He said police got no new tips, it was about just focusing on area more intently, Bland said.
"We didn't get any direction from the dogs, but wanted to scrutinize the area again to exhaust anything we could and know we had without a doubt. We wanted to get some answers for the family," he said.
The investigation is active and ongoing. Anyone with information about this investigation is urged to contact ISP Zone 4 at (217) 782-4750.