Man’s drowning death remains mystery 44 years later

Boone County authorities need help identifying man found in 1976

BOONE COUNTY, Ky. (FOX19) - Each plot at Potter’s Field in Burlington Cemetery marks a mystery, the blank gravestones like question marks for the living to ponder.

One of them belongs to a ‘Joe Smith’ whose identity and death have remained mysterious for 44 years.

The mystery man was found on July 2, 1976 in the Ohio River near State Route 8 in Constance, Ky., according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

He was found with tobbaco in his mouth, which BCSO Det. Coy Cox says likely rules out suicide.

“With the tobacco being located in his mouth, (...) the impact into the river would have dislodged that,” Cox said.

But the man’s body carried no signs of trauma, and other indicators suggest he did indeed die from drowning, Cox explains.

Otherwise, the man is described as 5′2″, 148 lbs. and 60-80 years of age. He had short grey hair and grey stubble on his face. He also had a vaccination scar on his left upper arm and was uncircumcised.

“If we could find that person who says, ‘Hey, I think that was Joe Smith,' and we could go and talk to family members and find out and, ‘Yes he did go missing around that time,' and it was him, then we can take DNA from his family members and do familiar DNA,” Cox explained.

None of that can happen now, because as yet no one has come forward claiming to know the mystery man. That leads authorities to believe he could be from out of state.

From the decomposition of the man’s body, Cox says it’s conceivable he could have been from as far away as Pittsburgh.

Cox says bringing peace to a family that’s been missing their loved one is motivation enough to keep the file open.

“It’s just that closure of knowing, ‘Hey, he didn’t just leave, he didn’t just abandon everyone or just take off and never contact us,‘” Cox said. “It’s to give them an ending to what happened.”

You can find the man’s profile on NaMus here. Namus is a database for missing and unidentified persons.

If somebody comes forward and believes they are related to this man, authorities say they would consider exhuming the man’s body for further DNA testing.

If you have any information on who the man could be, you’re asked to call the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

Copyright 2020 WXIX. All rights reserved.