- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) - Kenosha County Medical Examiner Patrice Hall opened her email recently and found something she had long hoped for - a cold case ID.

Hall’s work has led her to develop a passion for working toward finding the identities of people who have died and been left abandoned, either by malice or by chance, the Kenosha News (https://bit.ly/2kn3His ) reported.

For years, she has been promoting the idea that local police departments and families of missing persons use the federal Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) for Human Identification, believing it was the best way to identify John Doe cases of found human remains.

“It’s huge; the NamUs system is huge,” Hall said, because it allows local law enforcement agencies to tap into national resources in trying to link a name to an unidentified body.

But despite her belief in the system - and her encouragement of police departments, medical examiners and families of the missing to use it - she had never been able to successfully use it to identify a John Doe before. Until this time.

On a recent workday, she opened her email to find a message from the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, which works with NamUs. They had - through a DNA search - identified the person whose skull and other skeletal remains were found in Kenosha County last spring.

The skeletal remains were those of Hozia Jackson, a Chicago man who was reported missing by his family in 2012. Jackson would have been 47 years old the year he was reported missing.

Hall said Jackson was identified through a NamUs search of DNA databases around the country.

Hall does not like to speak about ongoing cases. And while families of missing people hope their loved one is alive, even finding remains can be comforting.

“I feel horrible for the family that first of all their loved one had been missing,” Hall said. Finding Jackson’s body “was not the outcome they were hoping for.

“But now they know. They can have a funeral. They can have closure,” she said.

Hall said when human remains like a skeleton or parts of a body are found, they are examined in a local autopsy. Then, if they cannot be identified locally, they are sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.

There, they are examined by a forensic anthropologist who tries to estimate how old the bones are, and to determine the sex, height, approximate weight, likely race and any possible injuries or illnesses.

Scientists there then extract DNA from the bones and run it through various DNA data banks, including NamUs, the military and the criminal justice system.

The science behind that process gives investigators hope that remains considered nearly impossible to identify can be pinpointed to a specific person.

That may be the case for skeletal remains found on the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Somers in late December.

Hall is hopeful that identities can be found for two longtime John Does in her office’s case files.

One of those cases is that of a white man found buried in a shallow grave in what is now Pleasant Prairie in March 1988. The man is believed to have been strangled to death about three months before his body was discovered, based on the level of decomposition.

He is estimated to be somewhere between 30 and 60 years old, about 180 pounds and 5 feet 6 inches tall. He is believed to have been balding and with a beard.

“The very interesting part of this is his clothing,” Hall said. The man was wearing a Hermes sweater that would have retailed at the time of his death at $800 to $900, a shirt from the French fashion designer Ted Lapidus, and underwear labeled Saks Fifth Avenue.

People wealthy enough to have that kind of clothing are less likely to have no family ties or acquaintances. Hall hopes that someone who knew the man, a friend or family member, may still wonder about his whereabouts.

Hall also hopes to find the identity of a man found along railroad tracks in August 1993 in Pleasant Prairie. The severely decomposed body was never identified, and while he had severe head injuries, it was unclear if he was killed or met an accident along the tracks.

That man was estimated to be 39 to 60 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with black hair and a black moustache.

“On his left forearm, he had an unusual tattoo,” Hall said. The image covered the man’s arm from the wrist to below the elbow, and appeared to show overlapping panther claws along with what may be a snake and foliage.

Hall has an artist’s rendering of the tattoo. “We’ve taken it to a lot of people to try to figure out what it is,” she said, saying she has even taken it to tattoo parlors to see if there’s some significance to the design. For now, she said, no luck.

“That’s our big clue for him,” she said. “Maybe someone will see this, and maybe it will bring back a memory.”

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Information from: Kenosha News, https://www.kenoshanews.com

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