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Man stole identity of dead 8-year-old for decades

Part of a cold case that perplexed authorities for years has finally been solved. Thursday afternoon, members of the ...

Posted: Jun 24, 2018 8:57 AM
Updated: Jun 24, 2018 8:57 AM

Part of a cold case that perplexed authorities for years has finally been solved. Thursday afternoon, members of the U.S. Marshals and Eastlake police revealed the true identity of Joseph Newton Chandler III.

Chandler was found dead in an Eastlake apartment in 2002, having committed suicide and leaving $82,000 in a bank account.

When a private investigator tried to find the heirs to Chandler's estate, he stumbled on a secret - Chandler had assumed the identity of an 8-year-old Tulsa, Oklahoma boy who died with his parents in a Texas car crash in 1945. How and why Chandler took the child's identity became a mystery that would remain unsolved for years.

Today, authorities pulled back the curtain on Chandler's life. His real name was Robert Ivan Nichols, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

Investigators uncovered his identity after a DNA match was made to a living relative - his son.

Even though part of the mystery has been solved, one question remains. Why? It's still not known why Nichols left his family in the 1960s and moved across the country to go into hiding in Ohio.

U.S. Marshals are hoping that someone Nichols crossed paths with can help answer the questions about why he disappeared - and where he was between the years of 1965 and 1978 when he started living and working in the Cleveland area.

Nichols left his wife and three children in Kentucky in 1964. His family never heard from him again after the following year. When his body was discovered a week after he had committed suicide, it was badly decomposing and no fingerprints could be found.

"With no note, no nothing, closed all the doors, locked all the doors, turned off the air conditioning, and again, he never wanted to be found in this lifetime, even into his death," Elliott said.

Nichols was described as highly intelligent, reclusive, and eccentric. In his apartment, detectives found a bag that was packed and ready to go.

"So he was ready to go at any time," Elliott said. "What he was running from, if he was running from anything, at this point, I just don't know."

Elliott said this was the first time in the Marshals' agency history that they used forensic genealogy to help solve a case. The Marshals worked with the DNA Doe Project and the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 662750

Reported Deaths: 12623
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion907691647
Lake48461880
Allen35897638
Hamilton32121398
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 968874

Reported Deaths: 17346
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1119871212
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Montgomery47254892
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Lucas35279767
Stark29356843
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Mahoning19444544
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Delaware16437136
Licking14967200
Fairfield14506160
Trumbull14315465
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Allen10768235
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Geauga6057129
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Seneca4671103
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Washington462287
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Auglaize455499
Shelby440970
Knox401686
Putnam3986101
Madison392147
Ashland379195
Fulton378664
Defiance3714102
Brown369242
Crawford357496
Logan354060
Preble352671
Clinton340064
Highland327756
Ottawa323267
Williams301878
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Noble128742
Monroe116436
Morgan100834
Harrison100433
Vinton76715
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