Man who stole identity leaves mystery after his death

EASTLAKE, Ohio (AP) - He was an impostor in life, and in death he became a John Doe whose identity remains unknown.
Last July, a man identified as Joseph N. Chandler committed suicide in his apartment in this Cleveland suburb. It turned out that he had stolen the identity of an 8-year-old boy who was killed with his parents in a 1945 car crash near Sherman, Texas.
The impostor was described by police as a loner in his 60s.
"We know that he was an unusual man, a quiet guy who had some strange ways," police Detective Lt. Tom Doyle said. "But we don't know what or who he was hiding from or who he really was."
The man left $82,000 in a savings account, a home computer and a 1988 GMC pickup truck. He didn't leave a will, and police said family members listed on a rental agreement led to nonexistent people or addresses.
"We thought at first maybe he was in the witness protection program, but that has been ruled out," Doyle said.
Lake County Probate Judge Ted Klammer has ordered investigators to try to find the man's heirs. If they cannot find any within 18 months, the money will go to the county's unclaimed-funds account.
Police assumed it was a routine suicide when they discovered his body last July 31. The county coroner ruled the man had died about a week earlier and had colon cancer that soon would have killed him.
The man had been living alone in the apartment since 1986 and was a retired electrical engineer, police said.
His closest friend, a former co-worker, could tell police little about the man's past, other than his claim that he grew up in East Liverpool, had been married once or twice and had a sister in Columbus. None of the leads panned out.
The man's friend, appointed by the court as executor of the estate, hired two investigators to find and notify heirs. The relatives they found were family members of the dead Texas boy.
Investigations learned that a man claiming to be Joseph Newton Chandler, of Rapid City, S.D., requested his first Social Security card in September 1978, at 41.
The man listed his parents as Ellen Christina Kaaber Chandler and Joseph Newton Chandler Jr. and said he was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on March 11, 1937 - all information taken from the Texas boy.
Dental record checks turned up only the man's fraudulent identity.
Making identification more difficult, the body was cremated soon after an autopsy, and neither the suicide weapon nor items in the apartment had fingerprints clear enough to be of much use, police said.
Police have sent the man's truck to be dusted for fingerprints and are waiting for phone records, but aren't hopeful.
"This guy made a life out of another life and he made a point to stay unknown," Doyle said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)