In 2004, a man was found beaten up behind a branch of Burger King. Left without his memories, one question has been left unanswered - just who really is Benjaman Kyle?
It was 5am on 31 August 2004. Employees at a branch of Burger King in the US town of Richmond Hill, Georgia, were preparing for the day ahead.
After cleaning up, a female worker took a bag of rubbish outside to the bins – just like any other day… But, as she approached the bins, she let out a deafening scream.
Behind the bins lay a badly beaten, unconscious man, stripped down to his underwear and covered in red ant bites. There were three depressions in his skull, appeared to be caused by blunt force to his head. He was taken to hospital, where he woke up a couple of weeks later.
But he was missing something. His memory.
He’d no idea who he was, anything about his past or even how he’d come to be in Richmond Hill. He had no identification papers on him, either.
The doctors and investigators were stumped.
Just who was he?
Meet Benjaman Kyle, the only person listed in the FBI’s Missing Persons database whose whereabouts are known.
The mystery man knew his first name was Benjaman, but didn’t have a second name. Instead, he came up with Benjaman Kyle – with BK as his initials, after where he was found.
While he was in hospital, he received treatment for cataracts in both eyes, which had left him almost blind.
Looking into the mirror for the first time, he was surprised at the image staring back at him.
‘I thought I was 20 years younger than I actually was,’ he later confessed.
Over time, a few vague memories began to return…
Benjaman said he knew he was born 10 years to the day before Michael Jackson, on 29 August 1948. He had blurred and fragmented visions of him being in Indianapolis and Denver…buying grilled cheese sandwiches from a state fair.
He also had a good knowledge of food-preparation techniques and regulations which could point to him working in a restaurant before his memory loss.
After being released from hospital, Benjaman spent some time homeless or living at the homes of friends he’d met while in hospital.
As he had no social-security number, he couldn’t get full-time work, and had to take menial, cash-in-hand jobs instead.
Meanwhile, there were countless efforts to find out who Benjaman really was. From searching the FBI fingerprint database, to using facial-recognition software and DNA test upon DNA test. These yielded nothing.
No leads stood up
Benjaman also appeared on the TV show Dr Phil in 2008, in front of seven million viewers and, though there were some leads, again, none of them stood up.
And who had attacked Benjaman in the first place?
Richmond Hill police failed to find an attacker. They were criticised for leaving it too late to open the case, and it was suggested this was because they’d just assumed Benjaman to be a homeless man.
So where did his memory go?
Although a few people have suggested Benjamin is a fake, the amount of medical and FBI scrutiny he’s received makes his memory loss unlikely to be a hoax. There’s no motivation for it.
It seems the most likely explanation is that he suffers from a rare condition known as ‘retrograde amnesia’, where old memories are forgotten but new ones can be formed. The condition can occur after a head injury, such as the bashes to the skull he’d endured before being found.
Living in limbo
Eleven years on, Benjaman lives in Florida, in a home donated to him by a good Samaritan. He still lives in limbo, though, as he still has no social-security number, and isn’t lawfully able to find full-time work or pay benefits.
A petition to grant him a new one, started in 2012, failed as it didn’t get enough signatures.
And there’s a recent twist in the tale…
A genealogist, Colleen Fitzpatrick, was helping Benjaman compile a family tree.
However, recently, he cut off all contact with her after she said she was close to finding a DNA match for him.
She doesn’t believe Benjaman wants the answers to the questions which have been troubling him for so long.
‘I think he was homeless, I think he could have had family problems or he could have just left of his own will because he wasn’t happy somewhere,’ she says.
‘Once the mystery’s solved, he’d probably be homeless again, and the story would go away.’
For now it seems Benjamin Kyle no longer wants to find himself.