A homicide detective for the Miami-Dade Police Department about to retire hopes to solve one last murder -- but first must find out who the victim was.
"I would like to get this person identified before I do retire," said Det. James Gallagher.
On April 28, 2009, human remains were discovered in a field just south of the Gratigny Expressway.
"This is where we found the person's remains," said Gallagher. "The victim was located between the tree line and the chain linked fence."
Gallagher, a 30-year veteran, said the victim had no identification on him. He added that he believes the victim was homeless.
"Because he was decomposed, I'm assuming you couldn't get any fingerprints," said Local 10 Crime Specialist John Turchin.
"No," said Gallagher.
"Dental records?" asked Turchin.
"His teeth were almost all missing," said Gallagher.
"What about DNA?" said Turchin.
"No, nothing has come back," replied Gallagher.
Gallagher began working in the homicide bureau in 1995. He is now assigned to the cold case unit. With retirement just months away, the case still bothers him.
“It was skeletal remains. There was no obvious trauma to the remaining bones, indicating a gunshot wound or blunt trauma. And, there’s no indication of any type of stab wounds," said Gallagher. "The Medical Examiner cannot rule out homicide... The victim could have been asphyxiated."
But nothing surprised the detective more than what was found when the medical examiner cut away the victim's clothing.
"Wrapped around the victim's legs, on both sides, beneath his pants, was a large sum of money," said Gallagher. “My assumption was that the man was eccentric, perhaps had money in the bank and withdrew it. It’s a possibility he stole the money. We just don’t know at this time.”
More than $10,000 in mostly crisp, $100 bills were found on the man.
More than three years have passed. The case had grown cold. But Gallagher refused to forget about the unidentified remains, so he turned to one of the country's most respected forensic artists: Samantha Steinberg.
“Doing a facial reconstruction or an approximate likeness as to how the person would appear in life is really the last hope for an investigator," said Steinberg.
Steinberg's crime fighting artwork has helped in the identification, apprehension, and conviction of hundreds of criminals. She brings the victim's face alive, hoping someone will see it, recognize it, and give it a name.
In this case, she began by building the face from the skull found at the scene.
“On a female the skull will tend to roll. And, on a male, it will sit on these," said Steinberg. "The other thing is that men have a prominent brow ridge -- whereas, women’s are smoother."
Steinberg noted that the area of the victim's forehead between the eyebrows and just above the nose was more prominent than the average person. She noted other features of the skull as she built her sketch.