YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — An investigator with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office is trying to determine the identity of a man who was killed in a traffic accident in 1982.
Hampering the effort, however, is the lack of any physical evidence from the victim himself as well as an absence of any case files from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which investigated the death initially.
“It was a different time,” said James Ciotti of the sheriff’s office.
In recent years, databases such as NAMUS — the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System — have been a big help to investigators, but those types of services often rely on items such as DNA, fingerprints or dental records.
In this case, none of those are available, Ciotti said.
It was 1982 and DNA was not even a blip on the investigative radar yet. The coroner’s office gave the body to a local funeral home after no one claimed it for burial.
Ciotti said he tried to get records of the investigation from the state patrol, but he was told that after seven years, the files were purged and none of their records were available either.
Ciotti doesn’t even have any clothing from the victim that can be used to help track down his identity.
The man was killed just before midnight Aug. 12, 1982, as he was walking west on Western Reserve Road just west of state Route 7 when he was run over by a car traveling in the same direction.
At first, Boardman police handled the investigation, but it was later taken over by the state patrol.
The coroner’s report said the man collided with a vehicle driven by an 18-year-old Canfield woman and the force of the impact threw him 54 feet away from where he was hit.
Newspaper accounts at the time speculated the man was at least 35 years old. A coroner’s report lists the cause of death as “shock and hemorrhage” from “multiple extremity fractures and possible internal injuries.” Tests showed the man had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death.
The woman told investigators she heard a thud as a car passed her in the opposite direction. She pulled off the road into a 1255 Western Reserve Road parking lot at the Youngstown Racquet Club and told a friend that was following her she thought she hit something, the coroner’s report said.
The two returned to the area but found nothing, and neither did a Boardman police officer who was called. The woman and her friend then left and the police officer, who was joined by two of his colleagues, kept searching. The officer found the body in a ditch, the coroner’s report said.
The report said when the woman heard of a hit-skip accident in the area the next day, she contacted an attorney, and they drove to the Canfield Post of the state patrol for an interview.
It is not clear if she was ever charged. The Vindicator said prosecutors were mulling over a decision on whether to file charges, but no other information could be found.
The newspaper said samples of hair, blood and clothing were taken to the state patrol lab in Columbus. The coroner’s report said they were checking the man’s fingerprints, but those results were pending.
The case is featured on the state attorney general’s website under the section for unidentified remains. The man is described as a white male, about 5’9, weighing 140 pounds, with brown hair and hazel-colored eyes. He had a beard and mustache at the time of his death.
Below is a photo of the man that was posted on the website:
Investigators are also seeking to identify a man who was pulled from the Mahoning River June 29, 1980, in Youngstown.
The case is one of three from Mahoning County spotlighted on the attorney general’s website asking for help identifying remains. The other case is that of a woman who was found decapitated Oct. 4, 1976, on South Range Road in Sebring.
This story is part of a series of cold cases that WKBN is examining.
Anyone with information on any of these cases can call investigators with the sheriff’s office at 330-480-5050. For information on the man pulled from the river, call the Youngstown Police Department at 330-742-8911.