BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — More than forty years ago, a man’s body was found in the Brunswick River.
Detectives refer to him as John Doe 1977, but his real identity remains unsolved.
Mary Doncourt, a civilian investigative specialist with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, says a wildlife officer found John doe 1977 on May 13, 1977.
“John was found fully wrapped in burlap and it had snagged on the banks of the Brunswick River just south of the 74/76 bridge,” Doncourt said.
Doncourt said he probably had not traveled far.
“It was thought that perhaps he’d been dropped off the bridge,” Doncourt said.
Doncourt said he was found only wearing a pair of blue socks. She said when he was found you could see his hands sticking out of the burlap as if he tried to get out. She also said he had probably been in the water for about a week making it almost impossible for the coroner to find a cause of death.
“Because of the way he was found, he ruled his death by drowning, but I don’t think anybody wraps themselves tightly in burlap and jumps in the water.”
The coroner estimated he was around 20 years old, but she said it was hard to tell, because decomposition had started and he was bloated.
Detectives drew two different sketches of him during the investigation, but they were missing a key part of an investigation.
“All of this was before the protocols changed requiring that the ME’s office keep remains, so his body was cremated and buried at sea, his remains after the autopsy and everything was done so we don’t have access to DNA,” Doncourt said.
She said they did have something though.
“A very unique dental chart that shows he has extensive dental work done,” Doncourt said. “It would have been expensive dental work.”
Doncourt said they could not find anything from dentists in the surrounding area. More recently, she tried reaching out to the director of the University of Maryland’s Museum of Dentistry to take a look.
“He did not think the work was done in the United States at that time,” Doncourt said. “There is the huge port in Wilmington. We wondered, because he was never reported missing, perhaps if he was off one of the ships that came through or if he might have been a military dependent whose family was stationed over seas or if he might have been military.”
After 40 years, investigators still do not know who he is or who did this. As more time passes, Doncourt said the chance of finding someone who knows is dwindling.
“But you just kind of hope that there will be that one little break and you keep looking for different things,” Doncourt said.
Doncourt is not going to stop until John Doe 1977 gets what he deserves.
“He was a human being,” Doncourt said. He deserves to have a name. 40 years is a long time to wait to get your name.”
If you know anything, please contact the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.