GOODLAND — A single spark of recognition.
That’s all Collier County law enforcement officials say is needed to help identify the body of an unidentified man discovered near the Goodland Bridge in May.
“The best case scenario would be that it triggers a memory of a family member or friend who has not heard from the person in a while,” said Collier County Sheriff’s Office forensic artist Tricia Blair at a press conference Thursday. “It’s really a connect the dots process.
The Sheriff’s Office released a facial reconstruction sculpture of the man, whose partially decomposed remains were discovered by fishermen in a cypress swamp off State Road 92, about a quarter of a mile south of the Goodland Bridge, on May 30.
At a press conference Thursday, Collier Detective David Hurm said even though an autopsy was conducted, an exact cause of death could not be determined due to the condition of the body.
The man was found wearing extra-large-size black cotton shorts that tied at the waist and possibly had paint stains when his body was discovered.
The partially decomposed remains were sent to the Collier County Medical Examiner’s Office for a forensic analysis, which found traces of cocaine and alcohol in the body.
Forensic anthropologist Heather Walsh-Haney, an assistant professor in the Division of Justice Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, completed a report of osteological examination. Blair completed the facial reconstruction.
Officials determined that the man was 40 to 70 years old and between 6 feet to 6 feet 5 inches with black hair.
The age gap came down to the apparent wear and tear of the bones, but it doesn’t mean the person was chronologically old, said Collier County Medical Examiner Marta U. Coburn.
“The truth of the matter is depending on the work you do, your organs and your bones will reflect the kind of lifestyle you lead,” said Coburn during the press conference.
Determining the man’s race was also a little more difficult, said Walsh-Haney, adding that the man had features that could have been considered black while others made the man appear Caucasian or European.
“Sometimes our bones do not match what our friends or family see on our skin or eye color,” she said.
In the end, Coburn said, they’d opted to err on the side of not singling out one race, which they also hope could lead to more possible matches. They feared by identifying him as black, white or Hispanic would immediately cause some to immediately discount him as their lost friend or relative.
Officials are also unsure how long the man’s body was exposed to the elements. They don’t know if the body was in the swamp undiscovered for weeks or days.
Walsh-Haney said that the man had suffered numerous broken bones during his lifetime.
His right cheek, right upper jaw, left forearm, right lower leg, three bones in his right foot, one bone in his right hand, four right ribs and four left ribs had been fractured.
He also had a surgically inserted metal pin with four screws in his fractured left pinky finger, but the pin had no identifying serial number.
The man also suffered from severe arthritis of the spine, appeared to be missing an upper front tooth and may have had an abscess in his lower left jaw.
The officials at the press conference urged area residents not to take the facial reconstruction as being “exactly” what the man looked like.
Facial reconstruction is not an exact science, said Blair, adding that weight, eye color and ear shape are unknown variables when creating reconstructions.
“We hope it gives more of a resemblance,” Blair said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 774-4434, or if you wish to remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780- TIPS (8477).