CLEVELAND – On November 14, 1980, a man was struck and killed by a train along the railroad tracks near Front Street in Berea, OH. Attempts to identify the victim, believed to be of Asian or American Indian descent in his late 20s, were made through the local media, fingerprints and all the means available during that time period.
After all efforts had been exhausted, the unidentified man was buried in Memorial Park (Potter's Field) in Cleveland, OH.
The Medical Examiner's DNA Parentage & Identification Department routinely follows up on old cases, with the hope they may discover new information that can be used with today's state-of-the-art forensic technology.
Additionally, the office will enter unidentified persons into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) – a national database designed for law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, and families of missing persons to contribute information to help solve missing/unidentified cases.
Anjanette "Anjie" Fischer, one of the Parentage Analysts found the 1980 case and contacted the Berea police department who still had the case file and post mortem fingerprints of the victim. They passed it along and then Fischer sent it to the county's fingerprint lab who then put it through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) – providing access to local, state, and federal fingerprint databases.
Furthermore, fingerprint examiners were able to compare the post-mortem prints to prints in the Next Generation Identification (NGI) federal database for a positive match to James Francis Williams of Grand Haven, Michigan.
They couldn't have done it alone. It was a real collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiners office, the Berea Police Department, Grand Haven Department of Public Safety (MI) and Sault Tribe Police Department.
With assistance from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, Sault Tribe Police Department, Luce County Clerk, and NamUs, they were able to track down his vital statistics and make proper next of kin notification. Dr. Gilson contacted Williams' brother, who told him he'd been searching for his brother for 35 years.
The family now has peace and closure.