PUNTA GORDA - The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to the public for leads in two different decades-old cases of unidentified remains.
CCSO outlined both cases in a post on the office’s blog on Tuesday.
The more recent case from 2002 involves decomposed remains located in the bushes on the side of Zemel Road, south of Punta Gorda.
“Two individuals driving on Zemel Road coming from a local shooting range saw an animal run across the road and stopped to try and locate and identify the type of animal,” read the post. “That is when they noticed bones and contacted the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office who responded to the area and began the investigation.”
A human skull and other bones were recovered from the scene. The remains were submitted to the Medical Examiner’s Office; the examiner determined that the death was a homicide.
Forensic analysis in 2019 indicated that the victim was male, between 5’3 and 5’7, and between 30 and 59 years of age. Racial background could not be determined. The estimated time of death was placed between several weeks and several months before discovery.
In 2021, CCSO’s Cold Case team reached out to their counterparts in Palm Beach County. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office had their Forensic Imaging team create an image of how the victim may have looked before death. The image included a photograph of a Bulova-brand watch with a “clear stone” at the 12:00 position, which was found on the arm of the remains in 2002.
“Throughout the years since this individual was located, no information has been received to identify him,” read the post.
CCSO has received information, however, about events that may have occurred in the area: an altercation with local individuals who beat the victim to death, left his body, took his clothes and “a weapon,” and buried the items in a field near Grapefruit Lane in Punta Gorda.
“The CCSO Cold Case team would like to talk to anyone who may have information regarding the identification of this homicide victim or any additional information about who may have killed him,” read the post.
The second case concerns skeletal remains located in 1980. The remains were found near the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad tracks, close to the intersection of Acline Road and Tamiami Trail.
The remains were discovered by a bulldozer operator, who was clearing trees along the tracks. Upon discovering the remains, the operator called CCSO to the scene.
“While most of the bones were found on the ground, some bones were unearthed during the forensic recovery sifting process,” read the post. The recovery also discovered “two costume jewelry rings, one size 6½ silver spoon ring, and one size 9 gold ring with a topaz stone.”
Forensic analysis in 2011 found that the victim was female, between 18 and 35 years old, and was estimated to be around 5’7 or 5’8 in height. The victim was likely to be either of African/Black or Latin/Hispanic ancestry, and time of death was estimated to be between several months to several years prior to discovery.
The analysis of the remains also determined that the skull had fractures; however, it could not be determined if they occurred before or after death.
In 2021, the CCSO Cold Case team also reached out to the Palm Beach Forensic Imaging team to prepare an image of how the victim may have looked prior to her death. The rendition provided also included with the artist rendition of the victim are photographs of the two rings that were located with the remains.
“Throughout the years since this individual was located, no information has been received to identify her and the CCSO Cold Case team would like to talk to anyone who may have any information regarding the identification of this individual or what may have happened to her,” read the post.
Both forensic analysis project were performed by Heather Walsh-Haney, a forensic anthropologist at Florida Gulf Coast University.