NewsLocal News


Man speaks about his brother being identified nearly 20 years after his death

Edward Richard's body was found in Gulf in 2002
Body Identified
Posted at 11:44 AM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 23:53:34-05

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A body found floating in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 20 years ago has been identified.

Investigators say the body recovered in 2002 was Edward Lorenz Richard of Spencer, Massachusetts.

Deputies responded to reports of a body floating near the shore on the afternoon of May 3, 2002. The agency’s Marine Unit, along with detectives, searched the area and recovered the body which was about 1.5 miles north of Doctor’s Pass.

The District 20 Medical Examiner had classified the death as undetermined based on the circumstances of the recovery. No criminality was ever established to indicate any person(s) contributed to Mr. Richard’s death.

The body had no identification and detectives began what would become a nearly two-decade investigation into the man’s identity. Detectives compared fingerprints through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System several times over the following years without success.

Detectives also entered the man into NCIC as unidentified remains. The man’s DNA profile and dental information along with fingerprints and a composite sketch were uploaded to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

The case was also added to the agency’s website detailing ongoing missing and unidentified persons investigations.

Then, on Nov. 23 of this year, a positive match was made between the fingerprints CCSO uploaded to NamUs and Richard’s Armed Forces fingerprint card, which had been prepared Nov. 15, 1972 when he enlisted.

Upon CCSO receiving notification of the match, detectives were able to locate Richard’s brother and adult son in Massachusetts the following day.

Family members said Richard left Massachusetts by bus and headed to Florida about 20 years before his 2002 death. At the time of his departure, Richard had given all of his identification cards to family and they had not heard from him since.

WFTX contacted Mr. Richard's brother, Paul, in Massachusetts.

He said we would agree to speak with us because he hoped his family's case might help other people in similar situations.

Below is an edited (for length and clarity) transcript of our conversation:

WFTX: Do you have any idea why he may've ended up in the Naples area?

PAUL RICHARD/BROTHER: Um, no. I do not. He wanted to go to Florida, USA. So my nephew bought him a bus ticket. He doesn't remember if it was Tampa or Miami.
My brother — we were always waiting to hit rock bottom so that he would begin to come up from rock bottom and we never did (see that.)

WFTX: When you say rock bottom are you saying he had mental health issues or addiction?

PAUL RICHARD: Yeah, he didn't have drug addiction but there was alcohol and he had his own demons.

WFTX: Based on what happened with your family, and how your brother was identified, what difference has it made for your family?

PAUL RICHARD/BROTHER: The big difference for us is closure. We never knew if my brother would walk up the driveway at my house at some point of if he was gone. So this let's us know he was gone.

WFTX: What would you say to other families are who end up waiting so many years - sometimes decades - to find out what happens to their Loved Ones?

PAUL RICHARD/BROTHER: I guess I would say that there is a network...through police departments, there may be a way, if you know the state to find out information sooner. We waited 20 years, 19 years, and we might have been able to know sooner.

(Paul also offered his thoughts on what factors he thinks may have played a role in his brother's death.)

PAUL RICHARD/BROTHER: My brother was attracted to people on the homeless kind of scale. And he would have hung out with them. So it could be some relation there. He also...may have just been hot and decided to go swimming and got caught in something. Or...his demons may have overcome him, and the water and swimming and boating and fishing were part of our life, and that might have been his best place.