This article was written by Brenda Ortiz.
During the cold months of late 1995, a dead man’s body was found in a rail car in the town of Wright, Wyoming. The cause of death was exposure to the elements. Under-dressed for the frigid November weather, the man was believed to have hopped on the train somewhere during one of its scheduled stops after it departed Richmond, Texas. His weather-inappropriate attire was only the very beginning of a series of strange and unfortunate details surrounding the case, and over twenty years later, the true identity of the man in the rail car remains unknown.
Dubbed “Coal Train Carlos” by investigators, the man was notably short with his height given as being no more than 5’2”, weighed around 150-165 lbs, and was believed to have been 40-50 years old. His greying black hair and a beard that had been recently trimmed. He was most likely of white or Hispanic descent. He carried with him no belongings apart from three keys, a lighter, and the clothes he was wearing which included a short sleeve shirt, brown pants, yellow Cuban-heel loafers, a green Mexican blanket vest, and a brown belt with the name “Morillon” engraved on it.
Aside from his short stature, other distinguishing characteristics were his tattoos; on his upper left arm was the Spanish word (and possible name) “Caridad” (Charity), a small cross on the web of his right hand, and the word “Cubano” (Cuban) on his left. Due to his style of clothing and relatively groomed appearance, it is possible that man was not homeless, but a drifter from down south who was inexperienced with northern weather.
Unfortunately for “Carlos”, the circumstances surrounding the investigation brought the case to a sudden halt. Though there were no signs of foul play, it would have been very difficult for a man of average height to escape the 12-foot high rail cars, much less someone of Carlos’s stature. How and why he got into the rail car is unknown. The train company did not start taking records of their stops until 1996, the year after Carlos was found.
Frustratingly, no physical evidence of Carlos still exists. No autopsy was performed and no dental records were taken. He was cremated, meaning that common methods used for identifying John Does, such as DNA extraction and isotope testing, would be impossible. His fingerprints were taken but were misplaced. His few belongings also suffered the same fate as the funeral home that took the items never placed them into their records. In an age where genealogy has given back names to many John and Jane Does, Coal Train Carlos has only his tattoos and police reconstructions to help identify him.
In 2015, his case was reopened by Laura Sundstrom, the county coroner. Despite the odds, she has not given up on trying to uncover the true identity of Coal Train Carlos.