Joseph Newton Chandler III

On July 30, 2002, Joseph Newton Chandler III, an elderly hermit from Eastlake, Ohio, committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An autopsy discovered the presence of colon cancer in his body, which likely motivated his decision to take his own life. When probate courts attempted to work out the man's estate they tracked down his surviving relatives. They were shocked to discover that nine-year-old Joseph Newton Chandler III had actually been killed in a car crash in Texas in 1945.

It turned out the Eastlake man had been using Chandler’s identity for decades. Now, U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott is looking into how and why the Eastlake man stole the little boy's identity and lived 24 years as a fake. Elliott said he believes the man, who appears to be in his late 60s, took the youth's personal history to cover a past that included unsolved crimes. The marshal said that based on the way the man lived and the elaborate way he concealed a life of lies, he was a violent fugitive. In 1978, he had requested a copy of Chandler’s birth certificate and used it to apply for a Social Security card. 

Initially, authorities found the man had more than $80,000 in a bank account and a 1988 pickup truck. His apartment on Lakeshore Boulevard contained a few books, a small box of expensive camera lenses and a stack of vitamins. He bought the .38-caliber revolver for $263.55 three months before he died from a Lake County gun store, Elliott said.

Many theories were formed about who this man really was. Crime buffs began to speculate that “Chandler” might have been the Zodiac Killer since he bore a resemblance to the suspect’s composite sketch. They also noted that “Joseph Chandler” happened to be the name of an investigator who found one of Jack the Ripper’s victims. The man also bore a striking resemblance to Stephen Craig Campbell, a fugitive who had been wanted for attempted murder since 1982 and was never caught. There is no conclusive evidence to prove any of these theories, so no one knows the real story behind the man who stole the identity of Joseph Newton Chandler III.


1 comment

LC Douglass said...

Wow - is that ever creepy! I'm surprised they haven't made a movie about this.

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