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Dead man found in Gulf of Mexico in 2002 identified 19 years later as Massachusetts resident

Edward Lorenz Richard had left on a bus from Massachusetts to Florida almost 20 years ago.

After a 19-year investigation, the Collier County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office has identified a man whose body was found in the Gulf of Mexico as Edward Lorenz Richard from Spencer, Massachusetts.

Richard was found in the water near Naples, Florida in 2002, according to a Facebook post from the sheriff’s office

Richard, who was 49 at the time of his death, was found dead and floating face up near the shore 1.5 miles north of Doctors Pass on May 3, 2002. The cause of death was classified as undetermined by medical examiners. Detectives could not determine the identity of Richard either, as there was no identification on him at the time of his death, according to the sheriff’s office. 

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For almost two decades, detectives on the case attempted to identify Richard, comparing fingerprints through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the sheriff’s office said.

Richard’s DNA profile, dental information and fingerprints were also added to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS). 

Investigators at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office turned to the public in 2018, once again to attempt to identify Richard, the Naples Daily News reported. An updated facial reconstruction was also released by the detectives. 

Richard was finally identified on Nov. 23, 2021, when there was a positive match between his fingerprints in the NamUS database and his military personnel file in the Department of Defense National Archives, according to the sheriff. His fingerprints had been documented on an Armed Forces personnel file on Nov. 15, 1972, when he had enlisted. 

Prints from unidentified people in the NamUS database were recently made available to the FBI for comparison, which is how the fingerprint comparison was finally possible, according to the sheriff’s office. 

Richard’s brother and adult son, who reside in Massachusetts, were located and notified the following day by detectives on the case. According to family members, Richard had left on a bus from Massachusetts to Florida 20 years before his death in 2002, leaving behind all of his identification cards with family.

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His family never heard from him again, the sheriff’s office said.

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