Could jawbones be key to unlocking decades-old cold case?


BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Police are asking for your help in identifying the man whose remains were discovered near a town park in Bethlehem nearly four decades ago.

The remains were discovered in April 1981 on a horse farm adjacent to Elm Avenue Park. The cold case has been brought back to life after the discovery of a set of jawbones.

Lynn Dente’s now-deceased grandfather, Frank Vadney, owned the property and made the gruesome discovery.

“He just saw some feet sticking out and went to investigate,” said Dente.

The Bethlehem Police Department re-opened the case two years ago.

“When this started originally it was these two sheets of paper right here,” Cmdr. Adam Hornick said with original paperwork in hand.

That’s because the original case file and evidence were thought to have been lost in a flood in the Town Hall.

Police contacted the Coroner’s Office, which 38 years later still had their own files, which included a note that said in 1981 a local dentist had performed an analysis on the unidentified man’s jawbones. Investigators then called the dentist.

A woman at the dentist’s office said they knew what police were talking about and the dentist retired about 10 years ago, but they still had a box in the basement.

Lo and behold, inside that box were the jawbones. A forensic specialist determined they were an exact match to the dental chart from 1981.

Police had hoped to match the bones to any surviving family members, but their request for familial DNA testing was denied due to its narrow criteria. They’re now looking at other options.

In the meantime, Bethlehem Police are asking for the public’s help — the teeth and the metal filings offering potential clues.

“Some of the escorts we’ve talked to are telling us there’s a potential that they could be military filings just based on the style that was done,” said Hornick. “Even the smallest clue, or something that we may feel is insignificant, is something that could be the determination for a family member to make a call.”

Police say the cause of death is unknown, and the man did not have a wallet or ID on him.

He’s described as having been a white male between 30-45 years of age, 5’11 to 6 feet 2 inches tall, and weighing 210-230 lbs. He was found wearing a Vanhusen plaid shirt, an olive-pea green colored jacket, Hager slacks, a belt with a $10 price tag, and Moccasin loafer style shoes with no socks.

If you think you may know who this man was, you’re asked to call Bethlehem Police.

Click HERE to learn more about the cold case.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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