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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – He still remains a John Doe more than 20 years after his body was found in Lake Erie.

Investigators believe this man died violently, but they haven’t been able to find the answers they need to give him his name back.

Three years after we first ran his story has the medical examiner’s office made any progress on his case?

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This John Doe’s case may be cold, but it’s still open at the medical examiner’s office.

All of these years later, just one person out there could have the information they need to finally identify him.

What we know

Someone made a sad discovery one cold March day back in 1997, finding a body floating in Lake Erie just off downtown Cleveland near where the Rock Hall stands.

We’re calling him “9th Street Pier John Doe” after the place he was found, until he’s able to get his real name back.

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He died just hours before someone found him.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office thinks he may have been assaulted or hit by a car.

But they couldn’t determine exactly what happened to him.

“So providing an identity can be a crucial step in finding out what happened and holding the perpetrators accountable,” said Traci Onders, a local investigative genetic genealogist.

Onders is not working on this case, but she works on unidentified cases like this.

Investigators created an enhanced photo of this john doe hoping it would jog someone’s memory.

“It’s a great image, and so that can really help,” Onders said.

Here’s what we know about “9th Street Pier John Doe.”

He was Asian, anywhere from 18 to 70 years old, 5′7″ and weighed 101 pounds.

He had graying black hair and brown eyes and two small scars on his chest.

One of several articles of clothing John Doe was wearing when he died.
One of several articles of clothing John Doe was wearing when he died.(NamUs)

The clues left behind

Evidence photos show the layers of clothing he had on when he was found.

It’s possible he could he have been a veteran or homeless.

Teeth can often be a key to finding someone’s identity.

A memo from a local dentist showed this John Doe had two sets of dentures, so no dental comparisons could be made.

His fingerprints were entered into a national database in 2016, but no matches.

And a lab developed a DNA profile for this man, but they didn’t get any hits back.

He died without a name, and anything we can do as a society to restore his name provides personhood and dignity for him,” Onders said.

“And it’s a step in pursuing justice,” she said.

We checked NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and found 23 missing persons have been checked for a match to this John Doe and excluded.

We noticed many of the missing persons cases investigators looked at were out of California.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office told us there are no updates in this case.

If you know who he was, call 216-721-5610, select 1 and ask for the investigations department.

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