Identity of body found in Hudson River still a puzzle - Columbia-Greene Media: News

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Identity of body found in Hudson River still a puzzle

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Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012 1:58 am

GREENPORT — Any hope of piecing together the identity of a decomposed human corpse found floating in the Hudson River in Stockport earlier this week could come down to DNA testing and dental records.

The autopsy on the body, performed at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany Monday, was inconclusive “simply because of the extensive decomposition,” NYSP Captain Scott Brown said Wednesday.

Not even the gender of the corpse had been determined as of Thursday, Columbia County Coroner Angelo Nero said. X-rays of the bones in the remains are now being studied in an effort to determine the sex.

Brown said the recovered body had no intact clothes and no wallet or identification.

Pieces of the remains to serve as DNA samples are being tested and will likely be put into a database, Nero said.

“The State Police are doing a very intensive investigation on this,” the coroner said. “It’s going to very drawn out.”

Following forensic and lab tests, Brown said, investigators will attempt to match the remains found to anyone reported missing in the region.

Asked whether the body — which may have been decomposing for weeks, if not months — contained teeth, Nero said, “We have some teeth. All we need is dental records to match up to it. That’s part of their investigation.”

It was unclear how extensive databases are for missing people cases and how high a percentage of the missing have accessible DNA samples and dental records.

Asked about the difficulties of investigating a case such as this, Brown said: “Well, you don’t have much to go on. The more extensive the decomposition the less chance of identifying the person in an expedited manner.”

Two kayakers discovered the decayed body near Stockport Middle Ground island Sunday afternoon and dialed 911 on a cell phone.

According to NYSP Senior Investigator Scott Youngblood of the Catskill Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the kayakers stayed around the body until responders made it to the scene.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Marine Unit, with NYSP investigators on board, made it to the body around 4 p.m. Sunday, GCSO Investigator Adam Brainard said Tuesday.

The responders, Brainard said, used a “net-type system.” They surrounded the corpse with a net, fixed it to the side of the boat, dragged the body to shore and carefully placed the remains into a body bag.

“In a situation like this where you have a badly decomposed body, you can’t just grab onto it,” Brainard said.

It was soon determined the body had been floating on the Columbia County side of the river and the NYSP Livingston BCI took over the investigation.

Nero said the pathologist who conducted the autopsy could not give an answer at this point on how long the body had been decomposing before it was found.

“We have a lot of questions — how long, how old, male or female, how it happened,” the coroner said. “I know everybody wonders and we wonder.”

For now, the remains will continue to rest in the morgue at St. Peter’s Hospital, as investigators await testing and hope to eventually make a match to a missing person.

“There’s a lot to it, but they’re all working at it,” Nero said. “That’s where it stands at this point.”

The coroner said he hopes the “long process” will ultimately provide answers and “hopefully it can relieve someone’s loved ones somewhere.”


To reach reporter Billy Shannon, call 828-1616 ext. 2499 or email

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