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UNIDENTIFIED

Man who stepped in front of train still unknown

Posted on April 26, 2021

Top newsLocal news
This police sketch depicts an unidentified young man who stepped in front of an oncoming train and died in downtown Dunn in 2004.

Contributed photo

This police sketch depicts an unidentified young man who stepped in front of an oncoming train and died in downtown Dunn in 2004.

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 the state remain mysteries 

'Baby John Nash' killing remains unsolved

Drowning victim remains unknown 

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

Trains roll through the small town of Dunn all night. But at 2:45 a.m. on April 5, 2004, one of those trains came to a violent stop.

“It blocked the entire town,” said Capt. Robert Jenkins with the police department in Dunn, a town of 9,000 residents 40 miles south of Raleigh.

Seventeen years ago, Jenkins had been a police officer for a decade. He said he thought he had seen it all. He hadn’t.

“It was my first railroad death,” Jenkins said. “It was so gruesome. I can’t describe it.”

Whether 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.

“The conductor knew he hit someone and stopped the train,” Jenkins said. “It took a minute.”

Jenkins said he will never be able to forget that morning when he responded to the railroad tracks at Canary Street.

“A 25-year-old Hispanic male walking along the railroad tracks as train approached the deceased, (who) laid on the tracks and put his hands over his head,” according to the young man’s autopsy report.

The average locomotive weighs around 210-220 tons, according to trainconductor.com. That’s 465,000 to 480,000 pounds.

The young man who laid his body on the tracks weighed 111 pounds.

The train’s wheels cut the young man in half and caved in his skull, according to his autopsy report.

His toxicology report indicates the young man had no alcohol in his system, a surprise to investigators. 

Despite efforts by local police over the years to identify the young man, his identity remains a mystery.

He stood 5 feet, 3 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes. The young man wore a shirt, jacket, pants, socks and shoes, according to his autopsy report, which provides no further details of his clothes.

The young man’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System number is 6289.

Anyone with information about the young man’s identity is asked to call the Dunn Police Department at 910-892-2399, Crime Stoppers at 910-892-2222 or Team Cold Case at 252-406-6736. A monetary reward is available.

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