RICHMOND HILL, Ga. -- The man at the center of a mystery that's lasted more than a decade may not want to find answers. Genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick has been trying to solve the case of Benjaman Kyle since 2008: "I'm not sure Benjaman's really interested in finding his identity or not."
The case stretches back to 2004 when Richmond Hill Police took a routine call about a vagrant sleeping near the dumpster behind a Burger King. On August 31, Burger King workers called police when they found naked man sleeping near their dumpster just off of I-95. A police report from 6:30 that morning shows he was semi-conscious, but couldn't respond to officers. EMS arrived minutes later. Their report says "no trauma noted" in their initial assessment, but "redness to shoulders, face, and head total body covered in sores and rash."
According to the GBI, paramedics thought he may have received blows to the head from a blunt object. They transported him to St. Joesph's Hospital.
The man recovered, but never recovered his memory. He decided to take his initials from the restaurant where he was found: B.K. for Burger King and, now, Benjaman Kyle.
He didn't know his last name, his home town, or his occupation. He couldn't name a single friend or family member. More than a decade later, he still has no memory of who he is.
"I went back and researched missing persons, abandoned vehicles in the area, and everything I could during that time frame," Richmond Hill police Major Michael Albritton said. "I think I went back 6 months prior to and 3 months after, and checked all of our logs to see if there were any abandoned vehicles."
Richmond Hill Police ran his fingerprints through the FBI's system. There were no matches.
It's been more than 10 years, and Benjaman's story has been told in a documentary, on the Dr. Phil show, and by numerous news organizations. Coverage included stories by News4Jax in nearby Jacksonville, Florida. Despite the exposure, no one has come forward to say they recognize him.
DNA test could help find family
Forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick ran two DNA tests on Benjaman, hoping they would offer clues into his past.
One test, on Benjaman's Y DNA lineage, provided a connection to the last name Powell. The second test linked the mystery man to the mountains of the western Carolinas.
But why has no one come forward to say they know Benjaman?
"First of all, the people ... back in the mountains of the Carolinas tend to be tight-lipped and very to themselves. They're very private people," Fitzpatrick said. "So if they have family disruptions, family splits or even any good family stuff, they basically keep to themselves and they don't really care for outsiders messing with their business, so to speak."
"So I think that if he was from that area, and there were people that recognize him, you know they're not the kind of people that would come forward. They keep their lives private, and so I think that's one of the reasons," Fitzpatrick said.
The Hurricane Charley theory
On August 13, 2004, a category 4 hurricane with 150 mile per hour winds struck Florida. Hurricane Charlie created mass devastation, leveling towns and causing billions of dollars in damage. Many people lost their homes. Benjaman was found later that month. One of the women who helped him when he was first found told police she thought there was a connection.
"Her theory was that he was staying down there and became transient because of the hurricanes," Major Albritton said.
If the theory is correct, it means the answers for Benjaman lie in Florida, not in Georgia where we was found.
Vague memories offer clues
When he appeared on that Dr. Phil show in 2008, he said, "Even though I don't know who I am, there are some things that seem right. Benjaman. That popped right up; I just knew it was my name. I'm 10 years older than Michael Jackson, to the day. And he was born on August 29, 1958. So that makes me August 29, 1948."
Despite these vague memories, none of these leads have led to an answer.
After working with Banjaman for years, and getting closer to a final solution; Fitzpatrick said he cut off all contact with her.
The time she spent with him gives her insight to who he might have been: " I think he was homeless, I think he could have had family problems or he could have just left at his own will because he wasn't happy somewhere."
She thinks he ended up behind that Burger King for a reason. "I think he worked for restaurants – not as a cook, not as a manager, he just doesn't have those personalities and he doesn't know how to cook. So I think he was more likely a dishwasher or he swabbed the floors, or wiped the tables, you know some kind of labor that could earn money, earn cash."
Twilight zone of identity
So why, when she was getting so close to answers, did he shut her out? Fitzpatrick believes he doesn't really want to find those answers. "He's really walked away from a lot of people that could have helped him, that have spent a lot of time and attention," she said. "If we all were one big happy community we could work together and help him out, but he just doesn't seem to be very engaged in that himself."
In previous reports, Banjaman addressed those who thought he was making it all up, but couldn't offer a possible motivation.
"Well, I'll offer a reason," Fitzpatrick said. "If Benjaman was originally homeless, and he was a drifter and getting jobs, that once the mystery's solved he would probably go back on the street again, he'd be homeless again, and the story would go away."
"You know, poor Benjaman is stuck in this twilight zone sort of identity. He's got a lot of attention. If the mystery is ever solved, I think the story will go away and he won't get the time and attention from people. And he'll probably have some angry people that devoted a lot of effort to helping him when in the end he's not a big executive, he's just a regular person, or probably just a street person again."
You can help solve this Georgia mystery. Go to 11Alive's Facebook page. SHARE the photo of Benjaman and this story. If you think you might know who he is, call the GBI tip line: 1-800-597-TIPS (8477). Mention case #U590021635.
All month long, Vinnie Politan is focusing on Georgia unsolved mysteries. Watch Atlanta Alive at 6:00 am all week and join the discussion online using #GaMysteries.