Body of man found in Lake Erie 38 years ago identified

CLEVELAND – The Fox 8 I-Team has an exclusive look at a break in the case of a local mystery.

A family of a missing man finally getting answers to questions that have lingered for decades.

“When we first got the call, we thought someone was playing a prank on us,” said Jeanie Cooper. “We just couldn’t believe it, that they finally found him.”

But it wasn’t a prank. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office had finally been able to identify a man that was found in Lake Erie in 1980.

“The fellow who was found floating in Lake Erie had no identification on him,” Dr. Thomas Gilson told the Fox 8 I-Team Tuesday morning. He said the man’s fingerprints were taken at the time, and after officials at the time were not able to identify them, those prints were stored.

Through the years attempts were made to identify the man and employees kept working the case. Last summer, Anjie Fischer tried again.

“I don’t give up because all these unidentified people are somebody’s, somebody,” Fischer said.

Fischer said she teamed up with Cleveland Police on a project , and they sent the fingerprint cards to the National Missing And Unidentified Persons System. She said new technology helped make the identification.

“We got a hit pretty quickly,” Fischer said. After more than three decades, officials finally were able to put a name with the unidentified man, Dale Edwin Cooper.

Fischer was then able track down his family members, who live in Fairview Park.

“We have been searching for him for years,” said Cooper’s younger brother, Keith. “He was in the Air Force. He returned home and was living in Cleveland when he went missing. “

Keith Cooper said he and his family are extremely thankful to the medical examiner’s office for their hard work and dedication.

“This is bitter sweet,” said Keith Cooper. “It is good to finally know. This brings us closure and peace.”