YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — At one time, the man’s remains may have been forgotten.
But not now.
Police, with help from the state Attorney General’s Office and the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, are seeking help identifying a man whose skeletal remains were found in an East Side cemetery in 1987. They unveiled a facial reconstruction of the man at a press conference Thursday at the city police department.
The man’s remains were found Sept. 10, 1987, in the Mount Hope Cemetery off of Liberty Road in the Sharon Line area of the East Side of Youngstown.
The man’s remains were initially examined by the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office and Youngstown State University but were forgotten about until a few years ago when someone told police the remains were still in the anthropology department at YSU.
BCI then did a reconstruction of the man’s face. Samantha Molnar, a reconstruction specialist for BCI, said it was not easy because there was not a lot to work with.
“He was completely skeletal, and there wasn’t clothing or even hair found with him,” she said.
However, Molnar said, a portion of the man’s lower jaw was still intact, which helped a great deal because the remains were almost bare.
Molnar said the lack of cartilage and tissue on the skeleton made it hard to estimate the man’s height or weight plus investigators did not have a full skeleton to work with originally.
Investigators took a CT scan of the skull and were able to print that to reconstruct the face from a plastic model. That means the original skeleton can be saved and preserved for evidence.
Investigators were able to get some DNA from the remains so they can compare it to other DNA if someone comes forward.
“The most important thing is to get the DNA submitted,” Molnar said.
Joe Morbitzer of BCI said the agency recently used DNA to solve two unsolved homicides in Franklin and Licking counties, respectively. He said it is possible to get an identity through DNA, especially familial DNA.
“This has been a high priority for the attorney general,” Morbitzer said.
Youngstown Police Detective Sgt. Dave Sweeney, who heads up cold cases and missing persons cases for the department, said it’s possible the remains could have belonged to someone who was buried at the cemetery, but he does not believe that to be true because the remains were found in a shallow grave.
“Like everything else that cemetery has fallen into disrepair over the years, so we’re still open-minded,” Sweeney said.
A 71-year-old man and his 11-year-old grandson were squirrel hunting when they found the remains and called police. It is estimated the remains were there for three to five years before they were found. They were then turned over to the anthropology department at YSU.
Investigators say the remains belong to a black man between the ages of 30 and 44 years old.
Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and Chief Carl Davis urged anyone who knows someone who went missing during that time period to call police.
“If you know this person, please let us know so we can provide closure for a family,” Brown said.
Anyone with information can call the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office at 330-740-2175 or CrimeStoppers Youngstown at 330-746-CLUE.