Police: Death of elderly Johnstown man becomes possible fraud investigation

March 08, 2017 06:15 PM

The body of an elderly Johnstown man was found thousands of miles away in Arkansas and police believe he may be the victim of identity theft.

The yellow crime scene tape that surrounded the home at 329 North Perry Street is now gone. In fact, at this point, it’s not even clear if a crime was committed – even if the elderly man who had been living there is dead and his body was stuffed into a suitcase, tossed into the back of a pickup truck and driven 19 hours, where it was dumped in the middle of a field in Arkansas.

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The Perry Street home was buzzing with police activity most of the day Wednesday. Forensic detectives in white suits were seen entering and leaving the two-story house several times, going through garbage bags. It was all because human remains were found in a field in Prairie County, Ark., just east of Little Rock on Sunday afternoon. They belong to an elderly man police say had been living in the Johnstown home since January.

"The body was in the suitcase in the back of a pickup truck. A person that people stopped to talk to after driving 19 hours from the city of Johnstown down to Arkansas discovered the body, called 911. The suspects fled with the body. They ended up pulling off the side of the road, dumping it off a farmer’s field into the woods," explained Lt. Dave Gilbo with the Johnstown Police Department.

Police say they’re still not sure if the victim died of natural causes, or if it was a homicide. They also don’t know how long he had been dead. Police also say that a person is in custody in Arkansas, one is on the loose and a third person was taken from the Johnstown home Wednesday morning for questioning.

NewsChannel 13’s Dan Levy asked Lt. Gilbo if the story seemed bizarre to him.

"It does to everyone in law enforcement. It just doesn’t make sense," replied Gilbo. "Again, there could be issues with social security checks. I mean, we’ve seen more than one case here in Fulton County where people keep people alive or so people think he’s alive."

It’s still unclear if that was the case here.

Police are not releasing the victim’s name. They say he was a man around 89 or 90 years old. They say he was originally from the Arkansas area. He lived up here for a couple months.


WNYT Staff

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