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UNIDENTIFIED

Tattoo may hold key clue in unsolved homicide

Posted on May 17, 2021

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This sketch depicting the tattoo of a Valkyrie and cobra found on the upper right arm of an unknown man's body found in a Chatham County mine pit is included in a 1986 autopsy report signed by Dr. Cheryl Thorne.

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This sketch depicting the tattoo of a Valkyrie and cobra found on the upper right arm of an unknown man's body found in a Chatham County mine pit is included in a 1986 autopsy report signed by Dr. Cheryl Thorne.

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

Click the hyperlinked text below to read previous installments:

 Dozens of bodies found across NC remain mysteries

 'Baby John Nash' killing remains unsolved

 Drowning victim remains unknown

 Man who stepped in front of train still unknown 

 Body dumped on interstate remains mystery 

Few clues found in skeleton case 

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

SILER CITY — In Norse mythology, the Valkyrie were warrior women who plucked the souls of worthy dead from the battlefield and delivered them to Valhalla, heavenly resting place of Viking heroes.

Valkyrie are usually depicted as riding flying horses, but the Valkyrie tattooed on the upper right arm of a man found dead in a Chatham County rock quarry decades ago is straddling a giant cobra. 

That unique image might be the most valuable clue in one day identifying the still unknown tattooed man found Sept. 9, 1986.

While Valkyries ascended into the heavens, the tattooed man looks to have been dragged down to hell — missing finger bones and teeth point to possible torture, followed by a coup de grâce gunshot to the head and being thrown down into the abyss of a mine pit.

The tattooed man had a bullet entrance wound to the left temple area with an exit wound on the right side of his head, according to his autopsy report signed by Dr. Cheryl Thorne. The manner of death is listed as homicide.

“The body is at an angle with the pelvis on a rock and back of the skull lying on cardboard. The skull is markedly shattered. The right foot is flexed underneath the left leg,” Thorne noted.

The body’s positioning indicates the tattooed man was tossed into the pit after being shot.

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

Workers discovered the partially decomposed body, nude except for a pair of white boxer shorts, in a mine pit off Mount Vernon Springs Road just outside Siler City, an hour’s drive from Raleigh along U.S. 64.

The 20- to 30-year-old tattooed white man stood 6 feet tall with a slender build and unknown weight. He had long and straight light brown hair. His eye color remains unknown. He also had a small tattoo of a peace sign on his right ankle.

A dental examination shows the tattooed man may have had a root canal on tooth No. 10, which is the upper left incisor.

Fingerprints aren’t available because the remains were too decomposed. DNA isn’t available because samples weren’t retained, according to information from the Doe Network, a volunteer-run international clearinghouse for unidentified and missing persons.

The tattooed man is listed in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System under the number 2235.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation handled the case from the beginning. Anyone with information about the tattooed man can call the SBI at 800-334-3000, the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at 800-672-7042 or Team Cold Case at 252-406-6736. A monetary reward is available.

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