Their remains may have been found, but their identities are still missing
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Inside an office of the New York City Medical Examiner dozens of clay faces are perched on shelves. They're the faces of people whose skeletons have been found in New York City, but whom have never been identified. The facial reconstructions represent what the people may have looked like when they were alive.
Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Kristin Thorne sat down with members of the Medical Examiner's Office to go over some of their most challenging anthropology cases - the cases represented by the faces in their office. They're hoping to identify the individuals.
Since January 2021, Dr. Bradley Adams has been trying to identify the skeletal remains of a young man - possibly a teenager - that were found on the side of a deserted road near Mariner's Marsh Park on Staten Island.
Adams said it appears the young man had been stabbed to death.
"There were numerous linear marks on some of the ribs and areas of the torso that resulted from sharp force trauma," Adams said.
According to Adams, they believe the victim was approximately 17 years old and was most likely Asian.
Adams showed Eyewitness News the clothing that was found with the remains, which include boots, a sweater with the words "Baseball 01" and a shirt that says, "All-Star Cheerleader."
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Adams said they thought at first the young man may have been involved in cheerleading, but they found out that the t-shirt may have been mass-produced and eventually donated to local thrift stores.
He said they also found a wallet in the man's pants, but all it contained was a small calendar. The calendar was from 2005.
"Could this guy have been there from 2005 to 2021?" Adams said. "Absolutely."
In fact, Adams said the remains were so skeletonized that the skull had rolled away from the rest of the body and roots from the nearby plants had grown through the bones and clothes. Adams and his team had to carefully remove the skeleton from the roots.
Adams is also trying to identify a woman whose remains were found in 2008 buried in concrete in a wine cellar in Tribeca.
Adams said the remains were discovered in a nightclub on Church Street while maintenance workers were fixing a broken pipe. As they were digging through the concrete, they found a large plastic bag.
"They removed it and a human skull rolled out of the bag," he said.
The Medical Examiner's anthropology team was called in to remove the skeleton.
Adams said they believe the woman was African American between 25 and 35 years old. He said there did not appear to be any trauma to her body.
Adams said they found with her body a small purse that contained heart-shaped earrings.
They were wrapped in a bubble gum wrapper. He said they also found two coins - one from 1983 and one from 1984 - which helps them narrow down that this woman died or was murdered sometime after 1984.
The Medical Examiner's Office has approximately 70 unresolved anthropology cases.
Adams explained that the skeletal remains of the anthropology cases are kept at the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, while the remains of unidentified corpses that were not found skeletonized and appear to have died of natural causes are most often buried at Hart Island. He said people whose bodies have been identified, but have not been claimed by family members, are also buried at Hart Island.
Since February 2018, Dr. Angela Soler has been trying to identify a woman whose skeletal remains were found beneath the George Washington Bridge.
"She had blunt force trauma to the torso that was consistent with a decent from a height," Soler said. "But, we don't know how, you know, how she might have descended from a height."
In other words, investigators can't figure out whether the woman jumped off the George Washington Bridge or if someone pushed her until they establish her identity.
Soler showed Eyewitness News the clothing the woman was wearing. It's been logged into evidence. They include size 12 Lululemon yoga pants, a black zip-up hoodie, black socks with a pink Under Armour logo and black Sketchers running shoes size 8.5.
She said they believe the woman was Hispanic or Caucasian, between 40 and 60 years old and was 5 foot 2 inches tall.
Soler said she was also wearing a fanny pack, which was holding two paper envelopes of cash containing thousands of dollars.
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She said the woman also had extensive dental work and they showed x-rays of the woman's teeth to some local dentists and no one recognized the work.
"You have an individual who obviously experienced something that was probably pretty horrible and that they're still not identified and back with their family, it's very sad," Soler said.
If you know anything about the identity of the people listed above, call the New York City Medical Examiner's Office at 212-447-2030.
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For more information on the above cases and other cold cases for which the Medical Examiner's Office is requesting the public's help, click on the links below.
Staten Island, 2021: 15-22 year-old Hispanic male found skeletonized near Mariner's Marsh Park.
Manhattan, 2018: 45-65 year-old White/Hispanic female found skeletonized below George Washington Bridge.
Brooklyn, 2016: 18-30 year-old Black male found on the ground behind a NYCHA building. The man was found with a "Watchman" comic book and art supplies.
Queens, 2002: 18-30 year-old Black male found shot to death opposite 155-61 Broad St.
Queens, 2000: 20-30 year-old White male found shot and rolled up in a carpet by the old Flushing airport. The man had a healed fracture to his arm from a surgical procedure.
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