Unidentified: Will lottery tickets found with this man’s body help solve the case?

Updated: Oct. 16, 2020 at 8:30 PM EDT
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EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A man was found dead of unknown causes in an abandoned apartment in East Cleveland in March of 1998.

His identity is still unknown more than 20 years later.

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

Investigator Sara Goldenberg continues our new series Unidentified.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office has more than 50 cases of unidentified bodies, and this man is one of them.

19 Investigates is profiling several cases.

What we know:

This man’s mostly skeletonized remains were found near Forest Hill Avenue and Superior Road in East Cleveland, down the road from the historic Lake View Cemetery.

“In his pocket were lottery tickets dated Feb 12, 1997. He died sometime after that,” said Anjie Fischer with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

She’s trying to crack the case years later.

They determined the man had been there for about a year.

Since finding him, investigators have had no luck identifying him.

They couldn’t determine the cause and manner of his death because of the condition of his body.

“He was living in an abandoned apartment, who knows what circumstances landed him there. What choices he made that he was there,” Fischer said.

She said this man was likely 55 to 58 years old, but could have been anywhere from 40 to 60.

Fischer estimates he was 5′6″ tall, but they don’t know his weight.

Clothing found with this man's remains.
Clothing found with this man's remains.(Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office)

The evidence:

This man may have been homeless since investigators found a lot of clothing with him.

“A velour shirt, tan or yellow button-down shirt, and a sport coat with brass buttons,” Fischer said.

All of his clothes were weathered, including gloves and shoes.

A Givenchy tag and a pack of cigarettes in his pocket stand out among the evidence.

So does an X-ray that revealed he had a minor form of spinal Bifida.

“Some deformity at the lower end of his spine, like a patch, a red and purple mark,” Fischer said.

Fischer said he also had a “bone island” on one of his collarbones, which would stand out to doctors who may have treated him.

They have more X-rays and dental charting, but no fingerprints.

Sadly, they’ve gotten no tips on who this man could be since he was found.

But the significance of the lottery tickets found in his pocket could be the biggest clue.

He played the same number, 5926, on all three. Could it be his birthday, his child’s birthday, or another significant number for his family? Someone out there may know the answer.

These lottery tickets were dated February 12, 1997. He played the same number, 5926, on all...
These lottery tickets were dated February 12, 1997. He played the same number, 5926, on all three.(WOIO)

“Sometimes I think when people leave a family, they think oh well they’re just gone; we’ll forget about it until we hear from them. And then—they’re gone. So it is kind of sad,” Fischer said.

Investigators developed a DNA profile for this man, but they have no one to compare it to.

You can read more about his case on NamUs here.

If he looks familiar, call the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office at 216-721-5610 and select 1, then ask for the Investigations Department.

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

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