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Homicide victim’s identity remains a puzzle

Posted on July 19, 2021

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Sergio Soto of the University of South Florida’s Institute of Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science drew this sketch from a facial recognition sculpture of an unidentified man whose remains were discovered in Mount Holly in October 1979.

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Sergio Soto of the University of South Florida’s Institute of Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science drew this sketch from a facial recognition sculpture of an unidentified man whose remains were discovered in Mount Holly in October 1979.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

Shot dead and dumped in the Gaston County woods, next to nothing is known about a Black man whose remains were discovered four decades ago.

Dead for three months prior to his Oct. 6, 1979, discovery, the 32- to 42-year-old man had been reduced to skeletal remains. In life, he stood 5 feet, 8 inches to 6 feet tall. Most other defining physical characteristics such as weight and hair and eye color are unknown.

The remains were found in a wooded area near the Duke Power Riverbend Steam Plant off of Horseshoe Bend Road in Mount Holly, a small, suburban city in northeastern Gaston County 20 miles west of Charlotte along N.C. 27.

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 100 bodies remain unidentified in North Carolina. This is one of their stories.

The only known images related to the man are a facial reconstruction sculpture and resulting sketch by Sergio Soto with the University of South Florida’s Institute of Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science in Tampa.

The man’s dentals records are available, showing a restoration of his tooth 18, which is on the back bottom left of the mouth.

A partial fingerprint is available, but it’s of poor quality. A DNA sample is available, but not yet submitted for comparisons, according to information from the Doe Network, a volunteer-run international clearinghouse for unidentified and missing persons.

The man wore black pants, jockey-style underwear, a brown belt, dark socks and white slip-on deck shoes. He was found wearing a T-shirt with a caricature of a bee and the words “Save a Bee, Eat Your Honey.”

The man wore a silver chain necklace.

Chemical isotope testing conducted on behalf of the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner indicates the man is a native of the southeastern part of the United States, possibly southern Florida. During the last few years of his life, he may have resided in the Caribbean.

By looking at the heaviness of oxygen and other elemental isotopes found in a person’s body, forensic scientists can determine where a person has spent time.

The man’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System number is 1742.

Anyone with information about the case can call the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at 919-743-9077, Gaston County Crime Stoppers at 704-861-8000 or Team Cold Case at 252-406-6736. A monetary reward is available.

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