New York City, NY

1978 Missing Person From Toronto May Be New York John Doe

True Crime Mysteries (Megan)

The family is still waiting on answers 44 years later. The problem NYC Police lost the body.
George Norman HeysPhoto byToronto Police Service

In 2019, the Toronto cold case unit began dusting off unsolved cases from the 70s and 80s, reexamining them and putting out appeals to the public for more information. Among the strangest and perhaps most frustrating of these cases is the disappearance of George Norman Heys.

In November 1978, George Norman Heys was twenty-two years old when he left his parent’s home for a doctor’s appointment and was never seen or heard from again. He never arrived at his doctor’s appointment and was reported missing by his parents the next day.

The case had sat cold for decades, and no one knew what had happened to the young man. When the case was reopened in 2019, it was discovered that there were likely answers available to detectives at the time of George’s disappearance.

Reports of a man’s body that was found in March of 1979, just a few months after George’s disappearance, in Lake Ontario near the mouth of the Oswego river. According to records, this John Doe had a tattoo of a devil holding a pitchfork with mandarin writing underneath it. Heys’ sister, Dolores, knew that tattoo belonged to her brother.

The mystery might have easily ended there, allowing George’s family to formally identify him and properly put him to rest. Heys’ body may have also provided clues as to whether his death was an accident or suicide or involved foul play.

And while it seemed as though the Toronto police were helpful and invested in the case, the body was technically found on the American side of Lake Ontario. Bizarrely, New York authorities seemed baffled about where the body ended up, suggesting it may have been buried in an unmarked grave in a nearby cemetery. They also no longer had the photos that had supposedly been taken of George’s telltale tattoo, claiming they had been lost in the recent flooding.

To this day, it is unclear how this John Doe was missed when Toronto detectives were looking for George. It seems like the bureaucratic red tape was the only thing in between solving George’s cold case.

However, if it wasn’t George’s body, it still was someone, and it is heartbreaking that there could be two families who may never have answers because of carelessness when handling a deceased victim. New York law enforcement has no idea where the John Doe was ultimately buried.

George’s parents have passed, but his siblings and other family members continue searching for answers. They have been fighting back and forth with Toronto law enforcement and their American counterparts to locate and determine if this John Doe is George.

Anyone with any additional information on the case is encouraged to contact the Toronto police.

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