In April 1981, the Bethlehem Police Department responded to a wooded area at the property line between the Vadney Farm and the Elm Avenue Town Park in Delmar, NY after a farmer discovered the remains of an adult man. There was no identification on the deceased individual. The Bethlehem Police Department began an investigation and followed up on all leads for several years before all leads were exhausted. In 2013, the Bethlehem Police Department re-opened the investigation into this case and undertook efforts to identify the deceased man. Through the course of this investigation police were able to locate the mandible and maxilla of the deceased at a dentist office in Saratoga County. The previous dentist at this location had been involved in working to identify the decedent back in 1981. The mandible and maxilla were examined with the assistance of a Forensic Odontologist from the New York State Police, and found to be those of the deceased from 1981. These bones were then submitted to the New York State Police Lab, New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the University of Texas Center for Human Identification in efforts to develop a DNA profile of the deceased.
Once a DNA profile was developed it was loaded into all State and National databases in an effort to generate leads into the identity of the deceased. The DNA profile was also submitted to New York State DCJS in an effort to match the sample with any potential familial DNA that was on file. At the time this request for familial DNA comparison was rejected as New York State Policy did not allow for the comparison of familial DNA solely for the purpose of identifying an unidentified person. As a result of this case this policy was changed in April of 2021 to now allow for the familial submission of DNA for the purposes of identifying an unidentified person.
In 2020, the Bethlehem Police Department partnered with the FBI Melville Office Investigative Genetic Genealogy Unit. FBI Melville worked with Othram to develop a genealogical profile using Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing®. Othram scientists were able to develop a new DNA extract that was suitable for advanced DNA testing. After building the profile, Othram returned it to FBI investigators who performed a genealogical search. From there, FBI agents were able to identify potential family members to the unknown man. Bethlehem PD investigators contacted the potential relatives about the case. The individuals contacted were willing to help by submitting their own DNA for comparison to the original extracts produced from the jawbone. This comparison confirmed the familial relationship and confirmed the unknown man's identity as Franklin D. Feldman. Feldman was originally from Massachusetts and had lived in New York for several years before his death. At the time of his death he was 41 years-old.
No exact cause of death was determined due to the advanced stage of decomposition of the remains. After a review of all of the information and evidence that exists, the exact cause of death will most likely never be known, however, there is nothing at this time that appears indicative of obvious criminal activity.
Since the re-opening of this case in 2013, the investigation has been led by Commander Adam Hornick of the Bethlehem Police Department. The investigative team consisted of members of the Bethlehem Police Department in partnership with the FBI Melville Investigative Genetic Genealogy Unit, Othram Inc., the New York State Police Forensic Identification Center, the New York State Police Forensic Support Services, MAGLOCLEN, the American Association of Cold Case Investigators, the dentist office of Dr. Alan Rosell – now the office of Dr. Colin Morton, the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, the Albany County Coroner’s Office, the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, The University of Texas Center for Human Identification, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, United States Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and NaMus. The Bethlehem Police Department would also like to thank the media for their coverage of this case which helped generate leads and echoed the message of the need for policy changes on familial DNA testing.