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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Decemystery (2019) 3: Ulster County John Doe (1988)

The man in question.

This story is one that I only recently discovered. On the surface, there’s nothing too special about it. After all, there are thousands of John and Jane Doe’s waiting to be identified. What makes this story special—in my eyes at least—is the photo that was found in this particular individuals possession. A seemingly happy man holding a young child. Ever since I saw the photo, I’ve been wondering to myself: who is the
Ulster County John Doe?

A New York Minute: The Mystery of the 1988 Ulster County John Doe

There are three websites I’ll be lifting information from. If you wish to visit them, they are as follows:

Unidentified Wikia This is where I found the story initially. It’s a fantastic site, so if you’re into unidentified persons stories, definitely check it out.

Doenetwork A website dedicated to John and Jane Doe’s. Worth your time if you believe you may know of an unidentified person or persons. A government website for unidentified persons.

All credit for the information I got from this story goes to them. I’m merely the messenger of what I can collect from those sites.

Our story takes place on August 15, 1988. The location: New York; Kingston, Ulster County to be exact. It was on this day that the decomposed remains of a white male, aged between 30–50 (suspected to most likely be between 40–50), were discovered in a wooded area near Wiltwyck Cemetery, which is located behind Pine Grove Avenue. The cause of his death was a single gunshot to the head. It’s suspected that the man died four days prior to being discovered.

The man’s remains were badly decomposed—no thanks to the blisteringly hot weather that had been hitting the area around that time. I searched through some weather archives from the day the man was suspected to have died (Augusts 11, 1988) to the day he was discovered. Between those days, the weather had ranged from 91 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) to 96 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). There had also been no precipitation, so maggots had more than likely begun to feast on the corpse.

As for the man himself: there’s no information on his eye color, though he had brown hair. He stood somewhere between 6’1” (185 centimeters) and weighed between 185–205 pounds (84–93 kilograms). He was missing an organ, which authorities suspect was his appendix as the man had an appendectomy scar that was described as an “oblique linear scar” that measured four-and-a-half inches by one-fourth of an inch in the right abdominal quadrant. The victim was also uncircumcised.

The victim also had heavy dental work done; he’d had a maxillary fixed bridge with porcelain fused to white metal. As such, it’s likely the man wasn’t by any means poor or within the realm of lower class. Quite the opposite in fact; New York has the highest cost of living in the United States and while this was 31 years ago as of the time of this writing, the state has a pension for being known as a rich man’s sort of land. It’s more than likely that the man had a decent job or had made wise investments in his life.

Now then: despite all of this information is available, no facial reconstruction has been done. Exactly why, I’m unsure of. It’s possible the case has been so cold in the way of leads and information that police have simply not deemed it worth the funding. The same goes for DNA: a sample was taken, but it has yet to be tested. Make of that what you will.

Although the man’s facial appearance was badly decomposed, the killer—or killers—didn’t make any attempt to get rid of any of the man’s clothing or other identifiable possessions. I’ll be  going over the listing of contents the man had on him via Namus, so all credit for the ordering and the information goes to them.

In the way of clothing, the man had on a pair of plaid  green and black trousers that had pleats. As a side note: Namus—the aforementioned government operated website—inexplicably spelled “plaid” as “plad”. Good job, guys! Anyways, these trousers contained an identification label within the inner portion that read, “Pure New Wool” that was in English among three languages. Namus doesn’t list them, but there was a label that was on the waistband that read, “Rene Lezard: Femme & Home”. It’s because of this clothing label that authorities believe the man was of European descent as Rene Lezard originates from Bavaria. As for one final detail, the size of the trousers were a size 98.

Other garments found were all near the man’s corpse. There were a pair of white briefs that had red stripes on them and a turquoise polo short-sleeved shirt. The shirt had a label on it that read, “Chemise Lacoste”. The company—which was founded in Paris, France—had a logo with an alligator on it.

The man had on a pair of black loafers that sported the work “hikers” on the sole of the right shoe, which had been worn. As such, it’s likely the man had owned the shoes for a fair amount of time. Within the shoe, the number 9 was printed. The man also had on a pair of white socks that had light and dark blue strips that were covered with a large amount of fly larvae. So it’s likely the man had been laying out in the summer heat for a fair number of days. This makes me wonder how nobody noticed him, but I digress.

The last thing of note is jewelry. To digress once more, my immediate thought about what had happened to this man was that he was the victim of a robbery that went awry. However, upon looking into what this man had on him, it becomes apparent that the only way that this could’ve been a robbery is if the cemetery denizens decided to come out of the ground for a Bingo tournament.

For starters: the victim had a black, leather wallet was described as being of “good quality” and was still in the back pocket of the man’s pants. It contained a 1988 Commerzbank Calendar. The Commerzbank is a major bank that operates as a Universal bank that operates out of Frankfurt, Germany.

The man also had a crucifix made out of yellow metal that was attached to a chain, a gold-covered wristwatch that was a “Bulova Quartz” type that lacked any inscriptions. As a side note: Bulova originates from New York state, so it’s the only named identifiable item he was wearing that wasn’t from Europe.

The final piece of jewelry the man had one was a necklace that’s described as being, “thin, delicate, [and] yellow-metallic” that had a clasp wrap. Attached to the chain was a bronze-colored cross.

One other item was found on the man and it’s the item that I mentioned at the very start that I included as the header photo. It’s a colored photograph of a white male with a child. The man has length, brown hair while the child has a spoon in his mouth and a bib on.

Authorities have never identified the man in the photo and it’s unknown if the man is the victim, the killer leaving behind a memento, or just a random item that was left to throw the authorities off the trail of the killer—or killers.

With that, the story of the 1988 Ulster County John Doe goes cold. I’ve never been able to find any information on the man, any potential leads or tips, and it seems the case has never gained any sort of traction in the way of the public eye. As such, I’ll be excluding theories.

My Take

In my honest opinion, I couldn’t tell you what I think happened to the man. It could’ve been a failed robbery and the killer, not having intended to shoot the man, was spooked and fled without taking anything. It could’ve also been a revenge-based murder. Or perhaps the man had a shady past from Europe that caught up to him and the photo was of a child he had back overseas. Which one I truly buy into… I don’t know. I’ve thought about which is the most likely and none of them do. Unless there’s evidence that’s never been revealed to the public—which is possible—I’d believe that aliens shot the man as a prank just as much as I’d believe anything else.


Unless there’s a miraculous breakthrough in the case, I’m firmly of the opinion that this case will forever remain as cold as the Antarctic tundra. Sadly, there are hundreds of cases that are just like it: forever doomed to remain cold and unresolved.

If you happen to have any information that could lead to the man being identified or lead to an arrest, I suggest checking out the website doenetwork that I linked above. It has a phone number to agencies that are actively investigating the crime. Until the day that breakthrough comes though, one can only speculate as to who this man was and if his family wonders if he’s still alive.

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