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UNIDENTIFIED

Man’s body found barefoot on mountain trail

Posted on October 25, 2021

Local newsUnidentified
Illustrations show the face of an unidentified man who died of starvation and malnourishment 17 years ago on the Appalachian Trail in Haywood County.

Contributed photo

Illustrations show the face of an unidentified man who died of starvation and malnourishment 17 years ago on the Appalachian Trail in Haywood County.

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.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

An unknown man starved to death along the Appalachian Trail in rural Haywood County, leaving behind a mystery that has endured for nearly two decades.

Hikers found the starved man May 28, 2004, in a grassy area near Interstate 40’s Exit 7, which leads to the Harmon Den, a large horse and hiking campground near the Tennessee state line.

The body wasn’t there at 3 p.m. the day before, according to archived news reports.

The man died of dehydration and malnourishment, according to his autopsy report, which describes him as a white man who was 25-40 years old, stood 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighed only 123 pounds.

The starved man had a dark complexion with no tattoos, brown eyes and black, close-trimmed hair with a moustache and goatee. He had a 2-centimeter scar on the right side of his forehead at the hairline.

The starved man’s clothing included a red or maroon shirt, black leather belt, black utility pants and white underwear.

The man didn’t have socks or shoes, according to information from the Doe Network, a volunteer-run international clearinghouse for unidentified and missing person cases.

The absence of footwear has prompted questions and speculation by members of Websleuths, an internet community focused on unsolved crimes and missing persons. The site has helped solve several cases since it went online in 1999.

Websleuths points out the puzzling nature of the available clues: The man starved to death, but had trimmed facial hair; and he was found in a hiking area, but had no shoes.

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.

Dental charts, fingerprints and DNA profiles are available for comparisons. Investigators have entered the starved man’s information into multiple databases.

His case number at the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is 2004-01812; his autopsy number is 04-4653; his National Crime Information Center number is U-180005292; his number is 6291 in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Refer to these numbers when contacting any agency with information on the case.

Anyone with information on the starved man’s identity can call the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office at 828-452-6768 or Haywood County Crime Stoppers at 877-922-7463. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

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