Deceased boy found in 1981 with straitjacket nearby
The body of a young man wrapped in a blanket was lying on the side of a heavily traveled parkway with a straitjacket nearby. Who was he and where did he come from? We need your help finding those answers.
On Aug. 2, 1981, the U.S. Park Police received a phone call from an anonymous caller. There was a body lying in grass along the side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Greenbelt, Maryland.
This 29-mile scenic highway, maintained by the National Park Service, is a two lane, tree lined artery connecting the Nation’s Capital to the Charm City. Even in 1981, it was a busy road.
The body was wrapped in a blue blanket, similar to one you would see at a hospital or hotel. The young man’s ankles and his right foot were wrapped in bandages. Within a few feet of the body were a canvas straitjacket and one beige blanket with “U.S.” written on it.
Where did he come from?
Because of the items found with the boy’s body, investigators believe the he may have been a patient at a local treatment facility.
The body was found not far from Forest Haven, a D.C. government institution for developmentally disabled persons. That facility was eventually shut down in 1991 after a lawsuit and monitoring revealed extensive abuse and problems with the care of patients. However, Forest Haven was not the only facility in the general area. For example, Spring Grove Mental Hospital, Walter Reed Medical Center and Crownsville Medical Center were located elsewhere in the region in 1981.
The search continues
A medical examiner estimated that the John Doe had been dead for several days before being found. He was likely between 15 and 22 years old. He was malnourished, weighing about 106 lbs. His teeth were severely decayed, crooked and uneven. One report also noted that he had long fingernails. He was black with medium length kinky hair.
In 1981 the Park Police made contact with several local hospitals, local and federal law enforcement agencies seeking missing persons reports in attempts to identify the victim. They sent fingerprints to the FBI. Nothing matched the John Doe they found in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Det. Pettett discovered that the John Doe’s body was cremated in 1982, but she didn’t give up there. She found two black and white autopsy photographs, the autopsy report and a piece of the young man’s hair. She submitted the hair for DNA testing and uploaded the results to a national DNA database.
Det. Pettett has also contacted 52 U.S. states and jurisdictions requesting the John Doe’s fingerprints be searched through each fingerprint database in attempts to find a match. She has also entered the case in national missing and unidentified person databases such as NCIC, ViCAP and Namus.
We need your help
While Det. Pettett and the U.S. Park Police continue to work tirelessly to find out who this young man was, we are looking for the public’s help.
Did you work in a medical facility in the area in the early 80s or know someone who did? Do you have a missing family member who may have been placed in a medical facility? Do you recognize this young man? Call us at 1-800-843-5678.