Medical examiner identifies man killed by train in Berea in 1980

Posted at 9:23 AM, Feb 03, 2017

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner has identified a man who was struck and killed by a train in Berea nearly four decades ago. 

On Nov. 14, 1980, a pedestrian was hit and killed along the railroad tracks near Front Street.

Attempts to identify the victim, who was believed to be of Asian or American Indian descent and was in his late 20s, were unsuccessful. 

The man was eventually buried in Memorial Park (Potter's Field) in Cleveland without a confirmed identity.

As the Medical Examiner’s DNA Parentage & Identification Department was following up on the case, it was able to obtain from Berea police the original post-mortem fingerprint card from 1980.

The county's lab entered the fingerprints into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and fingerprint examiners were able to compare the post-mortem prints to prints in the Next Generation Identification (NGI) federal database for a positive match.

That led them to the identification — James Francis Williams of Grand Haven, Michigan.

“It is gratifying to be able to provide closure to any family who loses a loved one. This particular case is especially so because of the long time involved before an identification was made,” said Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson. “I am indebted to the wonderful staff in the county DNA and fingerprint laboratories, as well as our partners in law enforcement. Families never forget their loss and it is our mission to aid them in difficult times.”