In March 1998, fishermen discovered the badly decomposed body of an unidentified man floating in the Connecticut River in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The grisly discovery was made about 400 yards offshore of the Harbor One Marina in Saybrook Point after a fisherman spotted a sneaker floating in the water. Upon returning to shore, the fisherman notified a marina employee, who notified police, who then retrieved the mostly skeletonized remains. The United States Coast Guard and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection were also called to the area after the report of the discovery was made.
The unidentified man’s remains were autopsied by an anthropologist and a dental forensics expert. Police determined that the man was White, and possibly Latino, and was estimated to be between 30 and 35 years old at the time of his death. Investigators also estimated that the man stood 5’8” in height, and weighed 200 pounds. However, due to the advanced decomposition that had occurred, investigators were unable to make determinations about the man’s eye color or hair color. Investigators believe that the man had died at least year prior to the discovery of his remains but were unable to determine the cause of death. Police believe that the man’s remains floated down the river to Old Saybrook, and that the condition of the body indicates that he was in a marshy area before high water moved the remains to the river.
Several items of clothing were recovered with the body, including a coat with a purple zipper, the remnants of a pair of black pants, a degenerated pair of black socks, and a pair of size 9 ½ “FILA” brand sneakers. A silver butane lighter which was also recovered had a distinct design of an eagle standing on a globe with the number “2688” on it.
Since the discovery of the unknown man’s remains, law enforcement investigators have diligently pursued all leads about his identity, but none have returned a match for his identity. A facial reconstruction was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and his dental records were submitted to the American Dental Association and the Department of Defense's dental unit. Investigators widely distributed the man's image, even featuring his case on America's Most Wanted's website, and featuring him in the state's cold case playing card deck, which is given to state prisoners, as the nine of hearts card. Investigators also distributed descriptions of the man's clothing and the lighter model, and even contacted the National Lighter Museum in Oklahoma because of the unique design on the lighter which was recovered. In May 2008, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as #UP1821. Despite the exhaustive efforts of law enforcement, the man’s identity has remained a mystery. With few leads for investigators to pursue, the case went cold.
In 2022, the Connecticut Office of Chief Medical Examiner partnered with Othram to determine if advanced forensic DNA testing could help establish an identity for the man or a close relative. Anyone with information that could aid in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Connecticut Office of Chief Medical Examiner by calling 860-679-3980 and referencing agency case 98-03624 or NamUs ID #UP1821.
A DNASolves crowdfund has been created to raise funds for the remaining casework costs. Anyone can contribute here.