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One year after man died in Clearwater, he remains unidentified

LARGO — At 10:45 a.m. on March 8, 2008, Clearwater Fire Rescue workers pronounced a white man dead whom they had found moments earlier next to a bank at 600 Cleveland St.

The man had no identification on him.

But because he hadn't been dead for long, his body was in good condition and identifying him shouldn't have been difficult. At least, that's what those working the case for the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office initially thought.

But nearly a year after the man died, all attempts to determine who he is have failed. Today, his body sits inside the "cooler" at the medical examiner's office.

"This is baffling," said Bill Pellan, the office's director of investigations.

What makes the case all the more frustrating for investigators is that they've done much more with less. In fact, they've often identified bodies that were either decomposed or disfigured, including skeletal remains.

"This is pretty unusual," Pellan said, "especially since he died only hours before being discovered."

When found by police, the man, believed to be between the ages of 50 and 65, was wearing Levi's blue jeans, a blue wool sweater, size 13 loafers and a blue ball cap. Responders said he had a strong odor of alcohol.

After arriving on the scene, forensic investigator John Rush was told by authorities the man appeared to be a transient. Rush noted in his report there was blood coming from the man's nose/mouth area. There was no sign of trauma.

Investigators later determined he died from an overdose of a prescription drug.

Since the man's death, the examiner office has used his fingerprints, dental records, DNA and anything else they could think of in hopes of finding a match. But each time, they came up empty.

Taking this long to identify a body is rare, Pellan said.

He could cite only one other identity case this decade in which Pinellas investigators needed a year or more to solve. In 2005, the remains of a white man between the ages of 40 and 55 were found in a wooded area in the 44000 block of U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs. To date, attempts to pinpoint that person's identity have been unsuccessful.

"We're trying to reach out to anyone," Pellan said, "who might have known them."

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

How to help

Faces you know?

The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office is asking for help in identifying two dead men. The body of one was found on Cleveland Street in Clearwater on March 8, 2008. The other was found in a wooded area in the 44000 block of U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs. Anyone who recognizes the man in either sketch should call (727) 582-6800.

One year after man died in Clearwater, he remains unidentified 03/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 2, 2009 11:33pm]
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