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Authorities Seek Tips on Murder Victim Found Stabbed Through the Heart, Stuffed in Steel Drum, and Dumped in N.J. Ravine 20 Years Ago

Authorities in New Jersey released sketches to depict how a murder victim found in a sealed barrel may have looked when he was alive.

Authorities in New Jersey released sketches to depict how a murder victim found in a sealed barrel may have looked when he was alive.

New Jersey law enforcement authorities are putting renewed attention on the case of a dead body that turned up in a 55-gallon steel drum 20 years ago.

The drum was welded shut and unceremoniously dumped into a New Jersey ravine sometime before its discovery by a local family on April 19, 2002. The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Marlboro Police Department now say they are “engaged in a cooperative investigation” regarding the murder of the man inside the barrel.

A notice published recently by the prosecutor’s office on an online list of cold cases says the family that owned the property believes the drum was dumped “no earlier than the night of April 18, 2002.” The family moved the drum from the ravine—which contained a small stream—and placed it at the end of their driveway.

The Marlboro Police Department and the Monmouth County Health Department showed up on April 29, 2002, to remove the welded-shut drum.

“Health Department officials utilized a probe to examine the interior of the drum and something solid was discovered,” the prosecutor’s office wrote. “The Major Crimes and Forensics Units of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office immediately became involved. When the drum was opened, the body of a markedly decomposed, fully clothed adult male was discovered. No wallet or other identification was found with the body.”

An April 30, 2002 autopsy determined that the man died due to “multiple sharp force injuries including a stab wound to the heart.”

“The manner of death was determined to be homicide,” prosecutors noted. “It is believed that this decedent had been dead for approximately one month.”

The victim is believed to have been somewhere between the ages of 18 and 34. He was wearing an extra-large Ralph Lauren short sleeve golf shirt containing red, white, blue, and yellow stripes.

“The words Chaps and Ralph Lauren are printed randomly all over the shirt,” prosecutors wrote.

The victim was also wearing 34×32 Carhartt utility or carpenter jeans; a pair of “ankle high Chukka style black Timberland boots” size nine and one-half; Size 38 Hanes Jockey shorts; and a belt with a three-pronged buckle.

The victim was six feet fall and is believed to had a thin build; he is estimated to have weighed somewhere around 140 to 150 pounds, the prosecutor’s office wrote.

“The decedent’s hips were very narrow and his fingers were long,” they continued. “Eye color was not discernible due to decomposition. Hair color is believed to have been dark brown or black and one quarter to one half inch in greatest length.”

The victim is believed to have been of Hispanic and Black ancestry or of White and Black heritage.

A fingerprint recovered from the victim revealed no matches in state and nationwide databases.

The decedent’s teeth may also eventually hold some clues, prosecutors noted.

“A postmortem dental examination was performed,” the wrote.  “This examination revealed 16 upper and 16 lower adult teeth. The lower teeth are crowded in front. There are two large spaces between various upper teeth but there is no space in the middle. There is evidence of regular dental care.”

Another law enforcement drawing shows the distinctive teeth of a murder victim found sealed in a steel barrel in 2002.

Another law enforcement drawing shows the distinctive teeth of a murder victim found sealed in a steel barrel in 2002.

The New Jersey State Police secured sketches from a forensic anthropologist to ascertain what the decedent may have looked like.

Authorities say they have some “basis to believe that the decedent may have been from central or northern New Jersey or one of the five boroughs of New York City.”

They’re asking for tips via the following channels: the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office may be reached at (800) 533-7443; the Marlboro Police Department’s number is (732) 536-0100; and confidential tips can be lodged by reaching the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at (800) 671-4400 or by texting “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637. Or, tips can be filed online.

A reward of $5,000 has been authorized for information which leads to an arrest.

Another barrel was recently found containing human remains in the receding waters of Lake Mead in Nevada.

[images via the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.