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‘Real mystery’: Who was found in the Columbia River?

Special Reports

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It was May 25, 2018 when a fisherman on the Columbia River spotted something chilling underwater in the North Portland Harbor.

A body.

It appeared he was submerged in the water for quite some time, weeks, possibly months.

Oregon State Police Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Nici Vance, January 2019 (KOIN)

Unidentified and unclaimed, the man’s body remains at the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office. Even after dental and fingerprint techniques failed to reveal his identity, Oregon State Police Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Nici Vance is determined to change that unsettling fate.

“We have a real mystery on our hands. Who is this person? Who is their next of kin?” Vance told KOIN 6 News. “These cases are so important to me because I feel such an obligation to a family, his family somewhere, to give him back to his family. Someone has to be looking for him. Someone has to be missing him.”

Photos: Mystery man found in Columbia River

Clackamas County Forensic Artist Joyce Nagy helped Vance with a sketch.

“Joyce came to our laboratory, went ahead and viewed the remains for us, then drew a sketch of what she thought could potentially look like our individual,” she said.

A sketch of a man found in the Columbia River on May 25, 2018 (KOIN)

The unidentified man is between 20 and 50, had dark brown hair, a lot of brown hair on his chest, arms and legs, a goatee and mustache, but the color of his eyes is not known. His right ear was pierced. His left ear was not attached — perhaps from the decomposition in the water — so it’s not known if his left ear was also pierced.

“The thing I think I take away from a composite like this immediately is that he’s so identifiable,” Vance said. 

There are other clues, too. When he was found in the Columbia River, he was wearing distinct clothing, including a small waist size pair of Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs and a pair of dress socks.

“He’s got on a tank top, Crusoe brand, which was interesting,” she said. “Not a real common brand.”

He also had on pants, size 32 waist, with the words “Swizz Cotton” embroidered on one of the tags. 

The body of a man found in the Columbia River was wearing pants with this tag on it when he was found on May 25, 2018 (NAMUS)

“In researching ‘Swizz Cotton’ wording, we’ve noticed that it’s a UK determination of really casual slacks or casual pants,” she said. That means it’s possible he has ties outside the US.

Then there’s his t-shirt which “appears to have a Buddha face on it with a lotus flower or some sort of symbolized face on it with a flower motif on it.”

Investigators don’t know exactly how or why he died. But finding out who he is could help them answer those questions — and get the man home.

His DNA has been submitted to a lab in Texas. Investigators are awaiting those results.

Anyone who thinks they may know who this is should contact the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office at 971.673.8220.

“We want everyone to think about this fellow as potentially a missing person in their own lives,” Dr. Vance said. “I mean, could it be your cousin? Could it be your uncle? Could it be a friend that you know that you haven’t seen for a while?”

North Portland Harbor with a view of Mount Hood in the background, January 2019 (KOIN)

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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