'Unknown Man' Learns Name, but His Old Life Still Elusive

William Burgess was a rarity in modern age: an unidentified man
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2016 12:41 PM CST
A screen shot of William Burgess, aka Benjaman Kyle, from a YouTube video about his case.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – Last year, a genetic sleuth solved a high-profile mystery when she figured out the identity of a man with amnesia after other experts (and even Dr. Phil) had failed to crack the case for more than a decade. The man had gone by the name "Benjaman Kyle" after being found naked near a Burger King dumpster in Georgia in 2004, having suffered apparent head trauma. It wasn't until 2015 that "Kyle" learned he was actually William Burgess from Indiana. Now, in a lengthy look at the case, the New Republic provides an update about the person its headline calls the "last unknown man." Burgess, 68, is living back in Indiana near his brother, but the discovery of his identity hasn't triggered much recall of his former life. His brother, however, provides a detail that may speak volumes about the case: He says that, as a boy, Burgess suffered regular, brutal abuse from their father.

He left home at 16, and public records reveal that he eventually moved to Boulder, Colo., and worked restaurant jobs. The story includes an interview with the one buddy he had there, Chico Goetz, but Goetz last saw him in 1977, and the public records dry up soon after that. "The discovery of Benjaman Kyle’s identity answered one question, only to raise another," writes Matt Wolfe. "What had he been doing for the nearly 30 years between the time Goetz saw him in Colorado and the summer morning he was found, naked and unconscious, outside the Burger King in Georgia?" Burgess himself doesn't know, but he has a sense that he adopted the name "Benjaman" during this time and lived a largely itinerant life, skipping from job to job. Why that name? “I read somewhere that it comes from Old Hebrew,” he tells Wolfe. “It means beloved son.” Click for the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)

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