Police hope to identify man who drowned 37 years ago in Winter Haven

Winter Haven police hope a composite sketch can help finally identify a drowning victim who died 37 years ago.

The updated drawing depicting the unidentified man was released Friday morning by investigators with the Winter Haven Police Department. They said the victim’s body was found floating face down in Lake Silver on June 14, 1981, just across the street from the police station.

At the time, the male appeared to be in his mid-to-late 30s and may have been in the water for at least two days. Investigators said there was no apparent trauma to the body.

“We really don’t have a lot of personal information,” Winter Haven Police spokeswoman Jamie Brown told FOX 13 on Friday. “He was in Winter Haven and unfortunately he succumbed to what they’re saying was a drowning.”

He had no identification on him, and no one came forward after his death.

"Our investigators have not stopped trying to identify this gentleman even though there is very little to go on," said Public Safety Director Charlie Bird.

Back then, police released a composite sketch of what the artist though the man might have looked like. A few years ago they re-released it, with no luck.

Investigators recently sent the composite to a firm in Texas that greatly enhanced and colored the image.

Officials said there is little information years later due to a “host of events” that led the victim’s body being cremated before any fingerprints, dental records or other DNA sources could be obtained. 

They said a small amount of DNA was extracted during the autopsy and was resubmitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in 2015. However, there were no results leading to an identity.

Investigators said the victim is most likely not from Polk County. There were no missing persons reports with his description. State and national missing persons databases have also been checked but led to no results.

They hope someone recognizes the man from the new image and identifies him.

“Maybe it could be a relative. It could be someone who was in the area in 1981,” Brown said.

Anyone with information is asked to Detective Cooper with the Winter Haven Police Department at 863-401-2256.