Denver Government

How Denver Solved the Tragic Mystery of Arnis Ironnecklace

A suitcase found near the body of Arnis Ironnecklace, which was discovered in June 2021 near the Pecos exit on Interstate 70.
A suitcase found near the body of Arnis Ironnecklace, which was discovered in June 2021 near the Pecos exit on Interstate 70. denvergov.org
On June 13, Westword published "Seventeen Bodies Denver Is Trying to Identify," which focused on efforts to discover the names of sixteen men and one female infant who'd died in Denver between 1970 and 2021. But the Office of the Medical Examiner, an agency operating under the auspices of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, couldn't reveal until this week that one of the mysteries had actually been solved seven days earlier.

On June 6, the office had identified the remains of Arnis Ironnecklace, who was 41 years old when he was found dead on the 4700 block of Pecos Street on June 16, 2021. According to DDPHE spokesperson Tammy Vigil, his identity was not immediately made public in order to give staffers a chance to reach his relatives. "An OME investigator has contacted his family, who lives out of state, to advise them about his death," which was caused by "the combined toxic effects of fentanyl and ethanol," she notes.

The breakthrough on Ironnecklace's identity was the second achieved by the medical examiner's office over the past few months. In April, the DDPHE announced that one of its staffers, Hanah Shimeall, had successfully ID'd a man who'd died of natural causes 31 years earlier: Antonio Macias, a sixty-year-old Arizona resident whose body was found in a parking space at 723 West Seventh Avenue on September 9, 1990. On Facebook, the DDPHE wrote: "Thank you, Hanah, for the difficult but important work you do to bring answers to families dealing with tremendous grief."

Future efforts will be aided by a recent grant for a rapid DNA processor that could help the OME put names to bodies that aren't identifiable through fingerprints, dental profiles or any other tools. But more tried-and-true methods were the key to identifying Ironnecklace, whose remains were found by a land surveyor during an inspection near Interstate 70 and Pecos. While Ironnecklace's race couldn't be determined and his age was roughly estimated at "25-plus years," his wisdom teeth were present, and his body was found near a multicolored suitcase.

Federal authorities made the most of these clues, Vigil reveals: "We got some help from the FBI, who used additional fingerprinting techniques to capture a fingerprint from the decedent. That led to identifying him, since he had a criminal record on file."

The recent success stories, as well as the DNA processor that will soon arrive at the office, offer hope that Denver's medical examiner will be able to solve the sixteen mysteries that remain. Here's information about each, in reverse chronological order, with details from each listing, starting with the date the body was found.

August 29, 2019
Hispanic or Native American male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-one
Weight: 177 pounds
Hair: Black
Features: Brown eyes. Left ear is pierced three times. No tattoos.
Comments: This unknown male was found by a passerby walking her dog in Bear Creek Park. The decedent was believed to be undomiciled.
Location: 3550 South Raleigh Street (Bear Creek Park)

February 22, 2002
Possibly Hispanic or Native American male
Age: Fifty-plus years
Height: Five-eight
Weight: 110 pounds
Hair: Gray with stubble on the face
Features: No front teeth. No tattoos or scars
Comments: This unknown male was found along the west bank of the South Platte River by a cleaning crew. The decedent was believed to be undomiciled.
Location: Sixth Avenue near the Denver Waste Management building

December 16, 1999
Caucasian, Hispanic or Native American male
Age: 35-plus years
Height: Cannot be determined
Weight: 105 pounds
Hair: Cannot be determined
Features: N/A
Location: 4600 National Western Drive near South Platte River

February 25, 1999
Caucasian male
Age: 45-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: Slight-medium build
Hair: Light brown with stubble on the face
Features: Evidence of previous dental work, found wearing a green shirt with the word "MEXICO" on the front.
Location: 1135 Broadway

January 8, 1997
Hispanic male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 160 pounds
Hair: Brown with a thin mustache
Features: Brown eyes. A name tattooed on the upper-left arm. A scar on the left forearm
Location: Alley located at the 2400 block between South Julian Circle and South Irving Street

January 26, 1996
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Five-five
Weight: 150 pounds
Hair: Cannot be determined
Features: Degenerative bone disease. Antemortem tooth loss
Location: Storm drain at 5050 Humboldt Street

November 5, 1990
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 120 pounds
Hair: Brown with stubble on the face
Features. Brown eyes. The decedent did not have any tattoos, scars or identifying marks
Location: I-70 and I-25

June 8, 1990
Black female
Age: Newborn
Height: N/A
Weight: N/A
Hair: Black curly hair
Features: Cannot be determined
Location: 2860 North Ivanhoe Street

September 17, 1988
Caucasian male
Age: Sixty-plus years
Height: Five-eleven
Weight: 138 pounds
Hair: Gray with frontal balding
Features: Hazel eyes, edentulous [lacking teeth]
Location: Rio Grande West Railroad yard at Sixth Avenue and Navajo

June 7, 1987
Black male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Six-one
Weight: 183 pounds
Hair: Black with short, black beard
Features: Possibly known as "Kinky." Has several tattoos on lower right leg, including "GEMINI" and an outline of a wine glass. Found wearing a red, yellow, green and black beaded necklace
Location: 1350 Columbine Street

January 30, 1987
Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic male
Age: Cannot be determined
Height: Six-one
Weight: 157 pounds
Hair: Black or brown
Features: Brown eyes
Location: Platte River near West 13th Street and Zuni Street

October 16, 1983
Hispanic or Native American male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 136 pounds
Hair: Black with goatee
Features: Brown eyes. Multiple tattoos including: "Mary Jane" and "Rebelo E Causa"
Location: 2300 block of West 32nd Avenue

March 21, 1981
Hispanic male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-two
Weight: 111 pounds
Hair: Long, black hair with black mustache and sideburns
Features: Brown eyes
Location: 2600 block of West 17th Street

April 25, 1980
Hispanic or Native American male
Age: 35-plus years
Height: Five-ten
Weight: 123 pounds
Hair: Black with gray and a mustache
Features: Brown eyes and a tattoo of a female on left arm
Location: Under the 23rd Street viaduct

May 21, 1979
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 117 pounds
Hair: Black
Features: Brown eyes
Location: 728 28th Street

September 8, 1970
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Cannot be determined
Weight: Cannot be Determined
Location: Alley behind 2205 Larimer Street.

Click to access contact information for the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts