Autopsy: Alcohol contributed to burned man’s death | The Enterprise
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Autopsy: Alcohol contributed to burned man’s death

Posted on April 4, 2022

UnidentifiedLocal newsTop news
A Raleigh Police Department SUV is shown in an image from the city of Raleigh website. Anyone with information on the identity of a homeless man whose body was found in the woods near Nazareth Street in 1995 is asked to contact Raleigh police.

Contributed photo

A Raleigh Police Department SUV is shown in an image from the city of Raleigh website. Anyone with information on the identity of a homeless man whose body was found in the woods near Nazareth Street in 1995 is asked to contact Raleigh police.

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. News Editor Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Click here to read previous installments in the series, along with case updates and additional resources, on Kay's Unidentified blog. | 252-265-8117

RALEIGH — A drunken homeless man who burned to death on a mattress in the woods nearly three decades ago remains unidentified.

Authorities discovered the charred remains at a homeless camp in the woods near Nazareth Street on Jan. 30, 1995.

“This man’s body was found in an area frequented by homeless people. It was lying on a burnt mattress,” D.E. Scarborough wrote in the autopsy report.

RELATED STORY: Click here to read the autopsy in a post on Lindell J. Kay's Unidentified blog

Scarborough didn’t find any evidence of trauma other than burns. The autopsy found sooty residue in the burned man’s upper airways.

The burned man had an alcohol blood concentration of 220 miligrams per deciliter, according to his toxicology report.

A person with a blood alcohol level in the range of .08%, or 80 mg/dL, to .10%, or 100 mg/dL, is considered legally intoxicated, and it takes only a few drinks to get there.

Someone of the burned man’s weight found to have that much alcohol in his system on average would be unresponsive, extremely drowsy, have slurred speech, be incoherent and confused and have memory loss, vomiting and heavy breathing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“In my opinion, this indicates that this man died as a result of acute thermal injuries secondary to the fire,” Scarborough wrote in the burned man’s autopsy.

Washed ashore, unearthed in shallow graves, stumbled upon in the woods, discovered in abandoned houses, killed on busy roads and located in rivers, ponds and along railroad tracks, more than 120 bodies remain unidentified in North Carolina. This is one of their stories.

Present at the burned man’s autopsy was Ralph Apple, a member of security at N.C. State University. He attended since the homeless camp was partially located on the college’s property.

Bill Brinkhous, a medical examiner investigator, also attended the autopsy. Brinkhous made headlines for calling out South Carolina’s handling of Michael Jordan’s father James Jordan’s body. The basketball star’s father was found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest in a South Carolina creek on Aug. 3, 1991. Unidentified at the time, the body was cremated three days after its discovery, according to the Associated Press.

Also in attendance for the 1995 autopsy was Kevin Gerity, an autopsy technician fired from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in 2013. Gerity found a bullet in the brain matter left over after an autopsy and turned it over to the medical examiner, but it didn’t end up in the report, according to court documents.

When DHHS officials dismissed the medical examiner and Gerity, he filed unsuccessfully for relief under the Whistleblower Act. The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled against him.

The burned man, of an unknown race, was 30 to 50 years old and stood 5 feet, 2 inches to 5 feet, 4 inches tall. He weighed around 95 to 105 pounds. His hair and eye color are unknown. He wore denim jeans and briefs.

While fingerprints aren’t available, dental records and DNA are available for matching, according to information from the Doe Network, a volunteer-run international clearinghouse for unidentified and missing person cases.

The burned man’s case number in the National Missing and Unidentified Person System is 5968.

Anyone with information about the case can call the Raleigh Police Department at 919-996-3335 or email

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