All this heat and humidity lately have been driving town residents to the beaches in greater numbers than usual.
The cool waters are a blessed relief.
Last Sunday afternoon at Town Neck Beach, the sand was crowded with beachgoers of all ages. Because the afternoon winds were blowing hard off the marsh, many people decided to plop down on the beach side of the dunes, rather than the creek side, which is usually far more popular.
But even with the sun high in the bright blue sky, there still seems to be a shadow cast over the scene. It wasn’t a physical shadow, it was more abstract than that.
It was the shadow cast by the violent death of a man who has not yet been identified. A black man, whose mutilated body was found by passersby early last month wrapped in a tarp and garbage bags, strapped to a two-wheeled collapsible dolly, and tucked behind a cement barrier in this beach’s parking lot.
It was gruesome—just about as gruesome as it gets. It was just a torso. Head, arms and legs lopped off. The discovery was so…incongruous. How could something like this touch a town like ours?
So far, identifying the man has proven troublesome for authorities. He was without hands to fingerprint or teeth to compare to dental records.
The examination of missing person reports has turned up nothing so far, authorities say.
We learned last week that DNA taken from the mutilated body has not matched anything in the available DNA databases.
The Cape & Islands DA has hired a private laboratory to pinpoint the man’s ethnicity (was he Cape Verdean? African?) and a forensic anthropologist (think Temperance Brennan from the television series, “Bones”) has been brought in to assist with the investigation.
Authorities don’t know why the man was killed, or even where. Authorities say he was not killed at the beach where he was found. He was dumped there. Perhaps by someone from off-Cape in the dead of night.
Some speculate the dead man was involved in a drug deal gone horribly wrong. But again, this is just speculation.
All this not knowing makes the case so unsettling. It has put many of us at the edge of our seats, waiting for answers.
Being in the newspaper business, we’re asked frequently if we’ve heard anything new about the “Town Neck torso” (as it has become known in the newsroom), even something “off the record.” We haven’t.
We are as eager as anyone to get answers about this brush with the macabre in our own backyard. As soon as we know something, you will know, too.
Sunday, walking across the boardwalk, we saw a small group of locals stop and closely examine something floating in the water below. They were peering suspiciously at it. Was it an arm? The lower portion of a leg? Of course not. But we stopped to look, too. Just in case.