BAY VILLAGE, OH — Last Friday, authorities revealed the real identity of an Ohio resident who had been known for decades as Joseph Newton Chandler III.
The mystery man turned out to be Robert Ivan Nichols, a decorated World War II veteran who stole the identity of a young boy who died in 1958.
Now, as the investigation is shifting into why Nichols vanished in 1965 and escaped his old life, police are looking into whether he might have any connection to the 1989 kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic.
While much speculation continues to surround Nichols — including theories that he may have been California’s Zodiac Killer — Bay Village Police Chief Mark Spaetzel stresses that such an inquiry is a routine part of procedure in cases like this.
Chief Spaetzel added that, at present, no information links Nichols to Amy, and that detectives are “just doing their job.”
Robert Nichols initially abandoned his family in 1965 and moved around the country before settling in Ohio as “Joseph Chandler” in 1978.
Prior to that, authorities say, Nichols purchased the birth certificate of the real Joseph Chandler, a nine-year-old who perished alongside his parents during a traffic accident in Texas.
Nichols used that document to obtain a Social Security number, and then lived as Joe Chandler until he shot himself to death in 2002.
Since Nichols left $82,000 in the bank with no beneficiaries, authorities attempted to locate his family members and thereby discovered not only his ID theft, but that he had utterly obliterated any evidence of who he actually was.
Believing Nichols to be some sort of fugitive, then, the U.S. Marshals Service took the case and, after years of research, finally identified the dead man’s actual name — while still not knowing why he did what he did.
Amy Mihaljevic disappeared on October 27, 1989. She said she was going with a friend to the Bay Square Shopping Center.
Two witnesses said they saw Amy that day with a man who would now be in his mid-50s or early ’60s.
Searchers discovered Amy’s body on February 9, 1990. She had been stabbed twice in the neck and hit in the head with a blunt object.
Police will now look into Nichols’ whereabouts at the time of Amy’s abduction. If the timelines match up, further investigations are expected to involve DNA tests.
Nichols’ identity was finally cracked by using Y-chromosome DNA that matched him to a son he had written to back in 1965.
In 2016, Bay City Police announced a breakthrough with evidence in the case: a handmade curtain and blanket near the body that contained canine hairs matched to Amy’s dog Jake.
If you have any information about this case, please call the Bay City Police Department at (440) 871-1234 or email email@example.com
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Main photos: Robert Nichols [US Marshals Service]/Amy Mihaljevic [Bay City Police Department]