Using DNA and dental information, authorities in Florida identified the body of a man pulled from the Gulf of Mexico nearly two decades ago as that of Edward L. Richard, originally of Spencer.
He had been missing for 19 years.
The Collier County Sheriff's Office in Florida announced its findings Monday. The body had no identification when deputies responded to reports of a body floating near shore May 3, 2002.
Richard was 49 at the time of this death.
A family member told a Florida news station that 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.
A positive match naming Richard was made two weeks ago after the Collier County Sheriff's Office uploaded Richard's U.S. Armed Forces fingerprint card into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, the sheriff's office said.
Richard's fingerprints were taken Nov. 15, 1972, the day that he enlisted.
The District 20 Medical Examiner in Naples, Florida, classified the death as "undetermined" based on the circumstances of the recovery and there was no signs of foul play, the Collier County Sheriff's Office said.
Richard's body had no identification and detectives began what would become a nearly two decade investigation into the man's identity, according to the sheriff's office.
Collier County detectives compared fingerprints through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database and the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System several times over the following years.
They also entered the man into the National Crime Information Center for "unidentified remains."
The man's DNA profile and dental information along with fingerprints and a composite sketch were uploaded to NamUs. The case was also added to the agency's website detailing ongoing missing and unidentified persons investigations.
Richard's fingerprints had been placed into his military personnel file and maintained in the Department of Defense's National Archives.
Through a collaboration between the FBI Laboratory Latent Print Unit and the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division Special Processing Center, unidentified persons record prints retained in the NamUs data base have been made available to the FBI for comparison to archived fingerprint cards.
Richard's brother, Paul H. Richard Jr., told the WFTX-TV in Cape Coral, Florida, that his brother had "demons," which included alcohol, and the family was always waiting for him to "hit rock bottom."
Offering his thoughts to the Florida television station about what could have played a role in his brother's death, Paul Richard concluded he "may have just been hot and decided to go swimming and got caught in something" or "his demons may have overcome him."
Paul Richard also told the station that swimming, boating and fishing were part of his brother's life.
Upon the Collier County Sheriff's Office receiving notification of the match, detectives were able to locate Richard's brother and adult son the following day.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Two decades after body pulled from water in Florida, officials ID as former Spencer resident Edward Richard