Unidentified: Do you know who this man found dead in Lake Erie in 1997 was?

Unidentified: Do you know who this man found dead in Lake Erie was?

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Twenty-three years ago, a man died a tragic, violent death in Cleveland.

But who he is and how he died is still a mystery decades later.

The search for his identity to bring his family answers hasn’t ended.

The case is still open at the medical examiner’s office.

There are more than 50 cases of unidentified bodies in Cuyahoga County.

19 Investigates is highlighting several of them in our new series Unidentified.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office is asking for your help to help solve the cases.

An artist sketch of this unidentified man.
An artist sketch of this unidentified man. (Source: Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office)

What we know

It was a sad discovery one cold March day in 1997.

A man was found floating in Lake Erie, just hours after he died, near the E. 9th St. Pier.

Investigators believe he suffered a violent death.

“He could’ve been assaulted, or maybe he was hit by a car, it’s impossible to determine that from the pathology report,” said Anjie Fischer with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Fischer is like a detective trying to solve the case.

“His hair was graying, mostly graying but some black, he had brown eyes,” she said.

They couldn’t figure out his age. They believe he was anywhere from 18 to 70 years old.

“He was 5′7” and weighed 101 pounds," she said.

They hope the enhanced photo they have will jog someone’s memory.

“What we would need is someone who can recognize his face to give us direction to where we can get DNA to compare,” Fischer said.

He was found wearing several layers of clothing, including this sweatshirt.
He was found wearing several layers of clothing, including this sweatshirt. (Source: Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office)

The evidence

Something does stand out in this case. All of these clothes this man was found wearing when he died.

Evidence photos show the layers of clothing he had on when he was found.

One sweatshirt says Operation Desert Shield on it, leading investigators to wonder whether he was a veteran.

All of this clothing could also mean he was homeless.

“We’re not here to press charges, we’re not here to pass judgment. We’re only here to identify the decedents. So if someone has an estranged relationship but they recognize the decedent, I only just wish to know his name,” Fischer said.

A memo from a local dentist shows he had two sets of dentures, so no dental comparisons could be made.

His fingerprints were entered into a national database in 2016, but there have been no matches.

Fischer is determined to crack his case, even if it takes years.

“Regardless of the circumstances, we just want to know who this is,” she said.

A lab developed a DNA profile for this man, but they need samples from family members to identify him.

If you know who he was, call the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office at 216-721-5610, select 1, and ask for the Investigations Department.

You can read more about his case here.

Watch for our next Unidentified case next Friday.

You can watch the entire Unidentified series on our Apple TV, Roku, Amazon, and mobile apps.

You can also find more on the other cases we have profiled so far here.

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