Who Was John Doe? The Joseph Chandler Impostor Case

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EASTLAKE, Ohio (AP) -- He was an impostor in life. In death he became a John Doe.

Last July, a man identified as Joseph N. Chandler committed suicide in his apartment. It turned out he had stolen the identity of an 8-year-old boy who was killed with his parents in a 1945 car crash near Sherman, Texas.

The impostor was described by police as a loner in his 60s.

"We don't know what or who he was hiding from or who he really was," police Detective Lt. Tom Doyle said.

The man left $82,000 in a savings account, but didn't leave a will. Police said family members listed on a rental agreement led to nonexistent people or addresses.

"We thought at first maybe he was in the witness protection program, but that has been ruled out," Doyle said.

A judge has ordered investigators to try to find the man's heirs. If they cannot find any within 18 months, the money will go to the county's unclaimed-funds account.

After police found his body last July 31, the county coroner discovered the man had colon cancer that soon would have killed him.

His closest friend, a former co-worker who knew little of the man's past, was appointed by the court as executor of the estate. Two investigators he hired to notify heirs discovered the relatives they found were family members of the dead Texas boy.

Investigations learned that a man claiming to be Joseph Newton Chandler, of Rapid City, South Dakota, requested his first Social Security card in September 1978, at 41.

The man listed his parents as Ellen Christina Kaaber Chandler and Joseph Newton Chandler Jr. and said he was born in Buffalo, New York., on March 11, 1937 -- all information taken from the Texas boy.

Making identification more difficult, the body was cremated soon after an autopsy, and neither the suicide weapon nor items in the apartment had fingerprints clear enough to be of much use, police said.

"This guy made a life out of another life and he made a point to stay unknown," Doyle said.

Source: CNN.com
 

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Now we know who he really was, via the magic of DNA and forensic genealogy. It's still a mystery as to why he adopted the Chandler identity. It's a complicated story with a major gap they're still trying to fill in ...

DNA testing revealed a WWII veteran stole an 8-year-old's identity. No one knows why
... He was a WWII veteran with a Purple Heart, a wife and three children. But in 1964, he vanished, moved across the country and later took the identity of an 8-year-old boy who had died years before.

His case had confounded investigators for more than a decade. US Marshal Pete Elliott called it "one of northeast Ohio's biggest mysteries."

Now, with the help of DNA testing, some of the pieces have come together. ...

In 2002, a 76-year-old man named Joseph Newton Chandler III locked the doors and windows in his apartment outside Cleveland. He turned off the air conditioning and marked the date on his calendar. Then he went into his bathroom and took his own life.

Police discovered his body about one week later, but it had decomposed in the summer heat. No fingerprints could be lifted from the man's remains and his body was cremated.

When the name "Joseph Newton Chandler III" was run through a database, police saw the man had stolen the identity of an 8-year-old boy who died in a car accident with his parents in 1945. ...

The man who went by Chandler was an electrician and a draftsman who co-workers described as being an odd, eccentric and highly intelligent man, but a loner with no family or friends, Elliott said. ...

A new lead emerged in 2014, when US Marshals took over the case. They discovered that Chandler had visited a hospital two years prior to his death where a tissue sample was taken from him.

With the assistance of groundbreaking genealogical research and DNA testing, doctors discovered the man who lived for decades as Chandler likely had the last name Nicholas, or something close to that.

The trail eventually led officials to the mystery man's son in March 2018. Their DNA was a positive match. From there, it all came together.

The man who went by Joseph Chandler was really Robert Ivan Nichols. He was a WWII Navy veteran who was born in Indiana and who left behind a wife and three kids. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/22/us/mystery-veteran-stolen-identity-trnd/index.html
 
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