The Twinsburg John Doe: Forensic Reconstruction
The Twinsburg John Doe case is an especially tough one, and the Summit County Police Department and the Medical Examiner’s office need help identifying this man. No dental records have been found that match his teeth. I hope my facial reconstruction will jog someone’s memory, and that he will be recognized.
Background for Twinsburg Case
The remains of a young adult male were found behind a small factory in Twinsburg, Ohio in 1982. The bones and body parts had been cut up and wrapped in plastic garbage bags and buried. It was believed the man had been dead several years when the remains were discovered. There have never been any leads in the case.
Lawrence Angel, of the Smithsonian Institution, was the first physical anthropologist to examine the bones. He determined the victim was an African American man in his early 20s to mid-30s. He was about 5 feet, 5 inches tall with a slight but muscular build.
Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer of Bath Township was questioned as a possible suspect for two days in 1991 by investigators from Bath Township Police Department and the Summit County sheriff.
Preparing the skull
The Twinsburg John Doe skeleton was only partial, and the skull was badly damaged on the forehead, nose, back of the head and both mastoid processes (lumps of bone near the ear). It looked like the bones had been injured. Imagining that someone may have died a violent death is very troubling, but this should not influence you to make the subject look ‘sad’ in your facial reconstruction. The people who knew this man probably knew a young, energetic person and shared happier times with him.
I had to reconstruct the bridge of the nose. Luckily some of the surrounding bone was undamaged, so it was possible to estimate the slope of the nasal bones. The bridge of the nose is where tissue depth marker #4 is glued, so it’s important to reconstruct the anatomy here.
Except for one molar tooth the mandible was missing. A new mandible had to be reconstructed, one that fit well with the upper teeth and the region of the temporomandibular joints (TMJs). Tissue depth markers #7 – 10 and 18, 20 and 21 are on the mandible.
I measured, on the John Doe skull, how wide the mandible would have been and then found one just that wide (an adult, African American male) from the Hamann-Todd Osteological Collection and roughed out a clay copy, using some of the dimensions from the actual bony mandible, and the width of the TMJ region of the John Doe skull. I inserted the real molar tooth that was found at the crime scene into its proper place in the clay mandible.
A colleague, Anne Sanford, made a plaster cast of some anterior mandibular teeth from an adult male in the Osteological Collection, and I embedded these into the clay mandible so that they articulated with the upper teeth of John Doe in the way they would in a normal dentition (no marked overbite or underbite). Unless we have evidence to the contrary, we always make the guess that the individual was ‘normal’. If the proportions (evident in the skull) are reflected in the features the artist creates, this should produce a likeness that friends and relatives will recognize. You would never want to make extra big ears, or really bushy eyebrows, or an elaborate hairstyle (unless there was some evidence for them) because this would be distracting.
It’s been more than 30 years since this man died. I dearly hope that by sharing this information, and the images of his face, someone will recognize him and we can finally determine his identity.