After 35 years, The Portage County Sheriff’s Office, with help from Ohio’s BCI, has identified a John Doe, whose remains were found partially buried in a shallow grave in Paris Township in 1988. In August 2023, detectives finally learned their cold case victim’s name is David Ralph Kaziateck. He was 36 years old and living in nearby Warren, Ohio at the time he was killed. And now, the Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help to provide them with any information they might have about David that could help them identify his killer.
David’s remains were found on September 28, 1988, when a farmer was mowing a part of his property off of Cable Line Road, that he usually left unattended.
He noticed something shiny sticking out of the ground, and thinking it was a belt, he moved closer to take a look. He quickly realized he was seeing a human leg and immediately called the Portage County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators arrived to discover the decomposed body of a man, wearing a plaid flannel shirt, but no pants. There was a ring on his ring finger, and nearby, they found a portable travel alarm clock and a pack of Winston Salem cigarettes. Also in the area were windshield wiper blades and a picture frame. Whether or not these items are related to the case is still unknown.
It was difficult to determine the age of the victim, with decomposition, weathering, and what had been destroyed by animals, and the coroner mistakenly estimated he was in his 50’s or 60’s. Investigators believed his body had been there for a few months, possibly since the previous winter or early spring.
The shiny object that initially caught the farmer’s attention wasn’t a belt, but rather a rod and screws, components of a prosthetic hip.
Right away, there was no question, this was a homicide. Someone had taken the effort to place his body in a shallow grave, and moreover, there was a large gaping skull fracture, extending from the back of the man’s head, towards the top and continuing to his forehead. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma. Detectives believe he had been hit with a fairly large object or weapon, such as a bat or hammer.
Immediately, law enforcement talked to the farmer who found him and questioned neighbors surrounding the property. But no one had any information regarding who the man was or how he could’ve gotten there.
There was no matching missing persons report, and their investigation yielded nothing but dead ends from the start.
With no name, he was buried as John Doe, in Hawley Cemetery in Paris Township.
And that’s where the case remained, until April 2023, when the Portage County Coroner’s Office called the Sheriff’s Detective Bureau to reexamine the case.The coroner was able to provide detectives with the little information listed online in NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Person System, and an autopsy and coroner’s report.
Detectives were then able to track down a box of evidence, which they submitted to Ohio’s BCI, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, for analysis.
Next, detectives visited the farm where the remains were discovered. The farmer, who found the remains, still lived there, but sadly, he is suffering from dementia and couldn’t provide much information. However, when detectives showed him a Google Images overview of his property, it jogged his memory, and he was able to point to the exact spot where the body had been buried.
The location is remote, and today, it cannot be accessed by car. It’s surrounded by private farmland, and tucked behind a gas pipeline, next to the trackbed of an old railroad, which hadn’t been in use for decades before the crime took place. However, in 1988, it was possible to have driven a car directly to the location where David was buried.
Police searched a large area surrounding the location to look for any new evidence and they sent cadaver dogs to search the location. Two of the dogs signaled to an area of interest, but the search turned up empty.
The biggest clue detectives had at this point was the prosthetic hip. Today, prosthetics come with serial numbers embedded into them, which can be traced to the suppliers, the hospitals where each surgery took place, and then directly to the patients who received them.
There were numbers embedded into the rod and screw for John’s Doe’s hip, but after making some calls, detectives learned that these numbers were actually just part numbers, or shelf numbers. Unique serial numbers, tracing parts to a specific patient, weren’t put into use until 1989, just one year after the remains were found.
Fortunately, though, BCI had run tests on the evidence and were able to come back quickly with a name. In 1988, other than the leg which had surfaced above ground, much of the soft tissue still buried underground remained intact enough to preserve fingerprints. BCI ran them through the FBI database, which didn’t exist in 1988, and they had a match.
Detectives learned that David Ralph Kaziateck was born on October 7, 1951, which made him not in his 50s or 60s as estimated, but 36 years old at the time he was killed.
He had been adopted, and his adopted father, Ralph Kaziateck, had been in the newspaper business in Michigan.
Digging a little deeper, detectives learned that he had a military background, having served in the United States Marine Corps. He also had a criminal record. He had been charged with domestic violence, as well as passing bad checks and other petty crimes, back in Michigan.
David had been married and divorced in the 1970s, and he had a daughter from that marriage, who now lives in Arizona. Detectives tracked her down, but she and her father had been estranged. She said her dad had never really been a part of her life.
Next, detectives learned that David had moved to Colorado, where he met his second wife, Peggy Porter. The two moved to Warren, about 15 minutes from the farm in Paris Township, where his remains were recovered.
Detectives talked to Peggy, who now lives in Youngstown, and learned her marriage to David was tumultuous. Although they were married for three or four years, David was a bit of a mystery. She didn’t know David had served in the Marines.
She recalled David was a heavy drinker and a drifter. He would frequently disappear, and she wouldn’t know where he was or when he was coming back. She said he was a womanizer, and she assumed some of that time was spent with other women.
While he never held a steady place of employment and did mostly odd jobs in Warren, he was an iron worker and would travel frequently to Colorado for work.
Peggy remembered picking him up from the airport one day, and he was on crutches. He told her he had broken his leg in a work accident and had surgery. Detectives think this may have actually been when his hip replacement surgery occurred.
Peggy said the last time she talked to David, he had been gone longer than usual. She carried on with her life and decided to open up a bar in Youngstown, which she called Peggy’s Place. She phoned David to see if he wanted to be involved in the business with her, and he told her no. She would never hear from him again.
When David didn’t return, Peggy wasn’t alarmed and assumed that this time, he had walked out on her for good. She says she never considered that something bad could have happened to him. When she filed for divorce in 1986, she couldn’t find him to serve the papers and assumed he didn’t want to be found. She never filed a missing persons report.
Peggy had a son, who was a child during their marriage. He told detectives he has nothing but good memories of David, who was always nice to him.
Police have been unable to find any other living relatives or friends of David’s.
Peggy said he didn’t have any friends or know any of their neighbors, because he traveled so much and wasn’t home long enough to form relationships.
Peggy went on to marry James “Kraut” Porter, in 1990. He was a Navy veteran and worked for General Motors for 32 years. Police say he was also a known member of biker gangs. He passed away in 2003 after a sudden illness.
As the case stands today, there are no solid suspects or leads.
At one point, an informant came forward and said that a year after David was killed, two brothers, who lived near the farm where he was found, got into an altercation at a bar and killed someone.
Police identified the brothers, and looked at their backgrounds, but they had never been charged with a murder. One of them had a completely clean record, and the other had a history of some criminal activity, but nothing that rises to the level of murder. There is no indication that the murder the informant spoke of ever actually occurred. It’s possible he was simply trying to cut some kind of deal and provided false information. The brothers are now both deceased.
Police are left with more questions than answers at this time.
Portage County detectives worked with Trustee Ed Samec and Dean Funeral Home to obtain a marker for David’s grave, which is now in place at Hawley Cemetery in Paris Township.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help to provide them with any information about David and what his life was like. Where did he work? Who did he hang out with? What did he like to do outside of work?
Report any tips or any information you may have about David Kaziateck to the Portage County Detective Bureau at (330) 297-3886.
Originally published by The Porchlight Project. Republished here with permission.