YOUNGSTOWN — Do you know the face shown on the left?
Does he look like someone you met close to 40 years ago in the Youngstown area?
That’s the question being asked by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Youngstown Police Department and the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office.
They held a press conference Thursday at the Youngstown Police Department to show the public a facial reconstruction of a skull found on Sept. 10, 1987, on Liberty Road near Mount Hope Cemetery on the East Side.
Forensic artist Sam Molnar of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation created the reconstruction—his 10th such arrest in the past seven years for the agency, and the first such reconstruction BCI has done in the Youngstown area.
BCI says the reconstruction is believed to represent what the person might have looked like: a black man aged 30 to 44, whose skull may have been where it was found for three to five years.
Other identifying information such as eye color, height and weight, or hair type are unknown. The features of the eyes and hair in the clay reconstruction “are estimates by the artist to complete the image,” according to BCI.
Anyone who thinks they may recognize the man is asked to call the coroner’s office at 330-740-2175.
“Today we hope that there is a family, a friend, someone who can say: ‘He looks like someone.’ If he looks like someone you think he looks like, we ask that you contact us,” said Mayor Jamael Tito Brown during the conference. “It may not be exact,” he said.
A Liberty Road man, Charles Humphries, 71, and his grandson, Jason Schnich, 11, found the skeleton in a wooded area near Liberty Road while squirrel hunting and called police, according to a Vindicator news article. . The area was along a closed portion of Liberty Road, about 200 yards north of Mount Hope Park Cemetery, overgrown with brush, according to the article.
The remains were turned over to a Youngstown State University anthropology professor in October 1987, where they remained for decades.
About a year ago, Detective Dave Sweeney of the Youngstown Police Department, who has worked cold cases and unidentified remains cases for several years, was alerted to the remains at YSU and began working the case with Theresa Gaetano. from the coroner’s office, who then turned the remains over to BCI.
Molnar said that in this John Doe case, he only had skeletal remains. After BCI received them, the remains went to an anthropologist who provided the sex, race, and estimated age, which were provided to Molnar. He took the skull to a hospital, where a CT scan was performed to generate a three-dimensional image and printed on a 3D printer, “essentially generating a three-dimensional image of the skull.”
The reconstruction was created on a plastic replica of the skull, preserving the skull for DNA and other analysis.
She said if someone viewing the reenactment thinks the image might look like a loved one from this time period, “even if you never reported them (missing) back then, you can still report them now,” she said. “The most important thing is to try to send the DNA so that we can match the DNA of this John Doe to his loved one.”
John Doe’s DNA is on file and uploaded to the database used by law enforcement, so if someone wants to see if this John Doe is their loved one, they can submit the DNA to try to find out, he said.
She said people who live outside of the Youngstown area can contact the sheriff’s office to submit DNA and match it to this John Doe.
BCI has compared John Doe’s DNA to people already in the state’s DNA database and has not matched, he said. “Whoever this John Doe is, his family members haven’t come forward yet…”
Molnar said that of the 10 reconstructions in the last seven years, five resulted in the identification of the person.
Joe Mortitzer, superintendent of the Ohio BCI, told reporters that the reason the BCI does facial reconstruction is to “give families closure. We were able to bring closure to two families in Franklin County in central Ohio. Seeing the family members and the sense of relief filled us.”
He said facial reconstructions go “hand in hand with our work in the DNA lab. We have made great strides in DNA today to identify bodies not only directly but through family genealogical DNA. We’ve really tried very hard, and this has been a high priority for the attorney general, and that is to make peace by resolving these types of cold cases.”
Today’s latest news and more in your inbox