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SUNSHINE CRIMES: Look inside, can you solve a SWFL cold case that is "frozen?"

The cases of SIX skulls at the Fort Myers Medical Examiner's Office have gone so cold, they're considered "frozen." New facial sculptures could help, but only if someone recognizes them.
Posted at 10:55 PM, Apr 16, 2024

SARASOTA, Fla. — Behind every face and every action, there's a name. The search for those names is where the journey begins.

Fox 4's Senior Reporter Kaitlin Knapp is on a mission to get to know the names we know, and perhaps find the ones we don't, along with the detectives working in the same communities you call home.

In Fox 4's new series called "Sunshine Crimes," we are going across southwest Florida to tell the stories of people waiting for justice.

Not every case we tell are necessarily crimes. Some are people that have been found, but have no name. The students at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota are trying to put a name to the face.

Students sculpted a facial approximation — a person — based on 3D images from unidentified skulls at the District 21 Medical Examiner's Office in Fort Myers. There are 12 cases, and six are considered active.

SUNSHINE CRIMES: Who you know could help solve Southwest Florida's coldest cases

However, there are another six considered "frozen," meaning the possibility of identifying them is slim. For the man on a mission to identify every skull sitting on a shelf at a Medical Examiner's Office, it doesn't mean it's impossible.

"The skull is the story," said Joe Mullins. "These are individuals, we don't know who they are."

For the past 25 years, Mullins has been a forensic imaging specialist at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He's using his experience and drive to teach students how to create a sculpture based on a skull and details from the Medical Examiner's Office.

Six cases split among the students are considered active cases. However, five are considered frozen, or what the Medical Examiner's Office calls "forensically insignificant."

"It has very, very slim possibility off this case getting resolved, this person getting their identity back," he said.

They are considered "frozen" because law enforcement has exhausted every resource to try and identify them.

Mullins says it's a term he's never heard of.

"That's chilled me to the core," he said. "It's unacceptable to me...they are significant to me, and they are now significant to everybody that's sitting behind us."

Like the other cases, there's a description about the "frozen" cases based on the skulls. However, those details are less than the active cases.

Black man, frozen case
This Black man, with no known hair or eye color, height or age, was found in Fort Myers in 1995.
East-Asian man frozen case
This East-Asian man was found in Fort Myers on September 8, 2006. Specialists believe he died before 1990. His hair and eye color are not known, along with his height.
Middle-aged man frozen case
This man is between 20-41-years-old. He's possibly Asian or Native American.

His height, hair and eye color are not known. Deputies found him in Lehigh Acres on August 9, 2007. The ME's Office believes he died several years to decades ago.
Young Indian girl
This young American Indian girl is between 12 and 17-years-old. She was found in Moore Haven on March 13, 2008. However, it's not clear when she died or anything else about her.
Native American man
This man was found on June 10, 2011 in Cape Coral. The only thing known is that he's an Asian Native American man.
Unknown person
Little to no information is known about this person. They were found on November 4, 2023 in North Fort Myers. Specialists were only able to figure out that they are of Native American ancestry. Otherwise, not a single thing could be determined about them.

"We just need one person to see one of these facial approximations," Mullins said. "They were born with a name, they deserve to die with one."

If you recognize any of the faces, you're asked to call that specific law enforcement agency.