Body found two years ago still unidentified

Posted at 6:16 PM, May 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-24 18:16:08-04

Two years after a man's decomposed body was found floating along the downtown shoreline of Lake Erie, his identity remains a mystery. 

"Somebody out there is missing that guy," said Dr. Thomas Gilson, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner. "People don't just fall off the face of the Earth."

Gilson's team said he is a white man likely between the ages of 45 to 58 years old. His most distinctive feature is his crooked nose. At some point, he had broken it. He was likely in Lake Erie for about a year before he was found by a fisherman.

The medical examiner's office created a DNA profile of the man but no match was found in a national database called CODIS. CODIS is made up of DNA profiles of individuals nationwide charged in criminal cases. No match meant the unidentified man had no run-ins with the law in the past couple of decades that CODIS has been active.

But for a set of remains found in Parma last month, it was a different situation.

“They got us a DNA profile, we put it into the CODIS system and got a match back," said Gilson.

The remains were identified as 29-year-old Joe Helser, who had a lengthy criminal past and therefore could be easily identified by his DNA, extracted from his bones.

“Joe was one of the greatest guys I ever knew," said Jessica Kaminsky, a close friend of Helser's. "He was always there for anybody.”

Kaminsky believed Helser died of foul play. Gilson said his team found no injuries to his bones but they will likely never know how he died.

“I really think something happened to him, something caught up with him from his past," added Kaminsky. "He had too many resources, he was too well connected from his family background. He knew everyone, he helped everyone.”