Collier County Sheriff’s Office and Othram Are Using Forensic Genealogy to Identify Remains Found at the Big Cypress National Preserve

Found in a tent, an unidentified hiker lacks any identifying documents or marks. Determination of his identity has been complicated by his use of multiple aliases.

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THE WOODLANDS, Texas July 13, 2020

Photo of unidentified hiker

Nearly two years ago, July 23rd, 2018, two hikers found a deceased male hiker in a tent at the Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County, Florida. The cause of death is unclear, and investigators have struggled to identify the decedent. He was not found with a driver's license, cell phone, credit card, or other identifying information. His only possessions were notebooks, hiking gear, and cash. His fingerprints do not match in government databases and he has yet to match a missing persons case. Investigators have confirmed the decedent had no tattoos, scars, or medical implants that would aid with identification. Bulletins featuring sketches and photos have been released, but to date he is unidentified.

The decedent has multiple aliases, including his trail name “Mostly Harmless”, “Ben Bilemy”, and “Denim”. At the time of death, he was presumed to be between the ages of 35-50 years old, with gray hair and beard, blue eyes, and teeth in excellent condition. When he was found, he was estimated to be 5’8, weighing about 83 pounds.

Identification is further complicated by the decedent’s use of aliases and cash. For example, he appears to have checked into Top of Georgia Hostel and Hiking Center in the fall of 2017 but did so under the name “Ben Bilemy”. He paid for items using cash and didn’t leave any contact information. Other hikers met the decedent in 2017 and 2018, but none of them are aware of his true identity.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is working with Othram to use advanced DNA testing and forensic genealogy to establish an identification of, or to find nearest kin to the decedent. Anyone with information about the decedent is encouraged to contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 239-252-9300. A fund has been established to cover the costs of testing for this case. This case is logged in NamUs as UP51453.

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