Medical examiner: Three bodies found in Maine in last 20 years remain unidentified

Posted Feb. 28, 2014, at 4:23 p.m.
This hat was among the clothing found on a body discovered in Stacyville in 2010.
Maine Department of Public Safety photo
This hat was among the clothing found on a body discovered in Stacyville in 2010.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The body of a man discovered by a hunter on Nov. 4, 2010, in the woods of Stacyville wearing a blue and white striped hat printed with the name Chris is a rare case in Maine.

“In the last 20 years we have had only three unidentified bodies,” Mark Belserene, spokesman for the Maine medical examiner’s office, said recently. “We have had many others reported but ultimately were successful in identifying them.”

Years ago the state medical examiner had a number of unknown and unclaimed remains, but with the advancement of forensic technologies only three remain on the books.

Two came from the sea and are believed to be foreign, Belserene said.

“In the early ’90s and in 2001 we recovered two bodies (in unrelated cases) from the Atlantic along our coastline,” he said. “They were held for years before being buried by our office.”

When a body is identified and a family is unable to pay or there is no immediate family, the medical examiner will work with the person’s hometown to bury them, Belserene said.

“If the person is unidentified, we’ll keep them here as long as we need to — until we exhaust all avenues of identification,” he said.

The process can take a couple of years, and sometimes — as is in the case of the man found in Stacyville — there is no resolution.

The badly decomposed man’s body — believed to have been in his 50s, about 5 feet 9 inches and weighing about 150 pounds — was found by deer hunters on Nov. 4, 2010, in the woods off Route 11.

Officials from the state medical examiner’s office said there were no signs of foul play and estimate the man may have died months before his body was found.

Even though the case remains active, the few clues left in the woods where the body was discovered have not helped investigators identify the man.

The man had been wearing a blue-and-white plaid, button-down, long-sleeve shirt. The shirt was a Vineyard Vines whale shirt from a clothing company based in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. He also was wearing St. John’s Bay khaki pants that had a 33-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam, along with a St. John’s Bay dark-brown canvas jacket, size medium.

He had white New Balance sneakers on his feet, which were model 811, size 10EE, according to police.

Also found with the body was a black High Sierra briefcase containing three empty juice and water bottles, two spray cans of the insect repellent OFF and a brown sweater, size medium.

The medical examiner is in the process of making arrangements for a burial, in case family arrives later and wants to exhume the body, the medical examiner’s spokesman said.

The federal government understands there is a problem with unclaimed remains and created the National Missing or Unidentified Persons System, known as the NameUs database, which as of Feb. 14 contained 607 names of deceased persons with no known next of kin or family; and details about an estimated 40,000 unidentified deceased individuals for investigating agencies nationwide to use.

All three of Maine’s unidentified bodies have been entered into the NameUs system, Belserene said.

Anyone with information about the identity of the man found in Stacyville is asked to call Maine State Police in Houlton at 532-5400.

 

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