Unidentified: Skull and bones found in building foundation

Updated: Oct. 30, 2020 at 12:13 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A skull and some bones found by contractors in Cleveland three years ago have still not been identified.

The mystery of this man’s death-- how he died and who he is, continues.

But investigators are not giving up hope they’ll find answers.

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.

This case is challenging investigators, who have few clues to go on.

Their job is to figure out who he was, not how he died.

What we know

Contract workers clearing an abandoned building made a chilling discovery, stumbling on a person’s skull and several bones in a now-empty lot on East 79th Street near Chester Avenue in Cleveland back in December 2017.

“A building was being razed and his remains were found in the foundation, along with the remains of a dog,” said Anjie Fischer with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

She is still trying to crack the case.

They have a forensic sketch of the man they think was in his mid-50s when he died.

But he could’ve been 48 to 68 years old.

“If you see the sketch and it looks like someone, don’t put a race to the picture. The sketch is just a likeness, if it’s somebody you think you might recognize,” Fischer said.

His race is undetermined.

“Had a hook nose, which is not typically an African American feature, but other features he had were African American, which is like a strong jaw and the forehead,” she said.

The evidence

She said another clue was he suffered some kind of violence at some time in his life.

An anthropologist believes he could have been hit with a round object or even a bullet.

“There was some trauma to the left frontal bone of his skull which appeared to have happened before he died, but would not have caused his death,” Fischer said.

He was missing all four front teeth and used his canine teeth to chew so they were worn down.

But investigators don’t know his hair or eye color or his height and weight.

No cause of death was determined because only partial remains were found.

They developed a DNA profile for him, comparing it with missing persons across Ohio.

But there was no match.

Fischer’s cases aren’t solved overnight.

It often takes years to identify someone.

“The family members laugh and cry at the same time, they’re just so grateful, they don’t feel guilty anymore that they weren’t able to find their loved one,” she said.

The other bones are being tested to see if they belong to him.

If they are his, they could add more information to his profile and help solve the case.

You can learn 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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