CANTON, Ohio — State and local law enforcement released a forensic reconstruction of an unidentified man whose remains were found in a rural area in Stark County in March 2020.
On March 31, 2020, an oil well worker found skeletal human remains in a rural area off of Sandy Avenue in Canton.
Authorities believed the unidentified man had been there for about two years, so when it was time to identify John Doe, investigators only had skeletal remains to work with.
The Stark County Sheriff's Office partnered with Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to create a clay model of what John Doe was believed to have looked like before his death.
At the time John Doe was found, he was wearing a navy blue, yellow and white striped shirt, black shorts and athletic shoes.
"We have a picture, a photograph of the recovered T-shirt and shoes in this in this release. So those are things of note that somebody might remember, recall maybe seeing him somewhere within the last couple of years prior to this or knowing someone that left, you know, a home wearing this type of clothing," said Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier.
John Doe also likely had no teeth in life and may have previously suffered rib fractures that healed before his death.
Stark County Coroner Dr. Ronald Rusnak said the cause and manner of his death haven't been determined and he isn't sure if it will ever be determined because John Doe's remains were decomposed to bones.
Rusnak said he had a skull fracture and shoulder fractures around the time of his death. He’s believed to be between 30 and 50 years old and standing between 5 feet, 1 inch to 5 feet, 9 inches tall.
“It’s suspicious that he died from traumatic injuries, but I don't know if we'll ever be able to determine that exactly,” said Rusknak ho called John Doe’s injuries “significant.
It’s unknown if John Doe used drugs as there were no organs to take blood or urine samples. The medical examiner was able to determine John Doe there for at least two years as that is the minimum time it takes for a body to decompose to skeletal remains.
"We do have his DNA so if there's anyone who thinks that this could potentially be their relative, you know, we can look at DNA and try to make a match there," Rusnak said.
Samantha Molnar, who has worked with BCI for seven years, doing facial reconstruction for six of those years, doesn't take her role as identifying someone who no longer can speak for themselves lightly.
With every facial reconstruction the goal is the same for Molnar—to give them their name back, give their family a funeral, give their family an answer and put somebody behind bars if it was a homicide.
"Sometimes you're swabbing their actual family members and they're coming and looking at your reconstruction and wondering if that's their loved one. So it's [her work] like extremely powerful. Also, like, I'm literally holding somebody's head in my hands, as I'm referencing the actual skull to do the reconstruction, so this is somebody whose actual life, their name was taken from them," said Molnar. " And we want to do everything we can to try to give them their name back because nobody deserves to lose their name forever."
She reads the coroner's report and looks at every detail from what the person was wearing at the time of their death to what type of hair they had.
"I guess anybody that's looking at this sculpture just take into account that that [hair] wasn't recovered," she said.
In this case, there was no hair recovered from John Doe so Molnar used a more generic hairstyle as to not take away from his features. His eye color is also not known. As is the case in other facial reconstructions, Molnar created John Doe with brown eyes as that is the most common eye color, but stressed he could have had different eye color.
Stark County and state authorities remain optimistic that John Doe will be identified.
"While we haven't made a positive identification yet, we're hopeful that we're going to be able to make that identification with help from you and from our public here in Stark County. Somebody might come forward and recognize or know something about this case," said Maier.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff's office tip line at 330-451-3937 or at 330-430-3823.
In case you missed the news conference, you can rewatch it in the media player below:
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