A large black-and-white photograph of a dead man's left ear hung yesterday in a conference room in the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.
The ear, authorities said, was still on the head of the man, who had been executed and whose fingerprints have yet to hit a match - at least in this country.
"This was a very large man with very small, round, distinctive ears," said Atlantic County Prosector Ted Housel during an afternoon news conference in Mays Landing.
Housel offered up these bizarre details yesterday because investigators have a genuine mystery on their hands: They have yet to identify the man found wrapped in a rug on Dec. 8 in the woods of Hamilton Township, let alone capture whoever apparently executed him.
"Somewhere, someone is missing this person," Housel said.
Investigators are keeping to themselves some major details, such as the cause of death or why they believe he was executed. But they are saying that no struggle preceded the murder and that the man with small ears may have known the person or people who snuffed him out.
"It was done deliberately for the purpose of causing death," Housel said.
The man's decomposing body, wrapped in a rug, was found by a deer-hunter a mile-and-a-half down a dirt trail in a heavily wooded tract between the Black Horse Pike and the Atlantic City Expressway.
The hunter, like thousands of others in New Jersey that day, was in the woods for the opening of shotgun season for white-tailed deer. The hunter had moved in and out of his spot several times that day and at one point noticed a large, beige rug that hadn't been there in the morning.
The victim, described as a white male between 30 and 40, had been dead at least a week, Housel said, before he was dumped in the woods.
"He could have been killed in Philadelphia, New York or Washington, D.C.," Housel said.
Housel said investigators believe that the indoor/outdoor rug, which had no visible bloodstains, was not the first choice for disposing the body, but he declined to elaborate. Investigators also believe that the rug, almost 12 feet by 9 feet, had been bought just before the body was dumped.
When asked if more than one person had been involved in dumping the body, Housel said that the victim was 6 feet tall and weighed between 200 and 250 pounds.
The killer or killers may have waited specifically for the opening day of shotgun season to dump the body, Housel said, knowing that a truck or van in the woods wouldn't seem out of the norm that day.
"This wasn't done with a Volkswagen Beetle," he added.
Housel said dental records weren't possible because the man with small ears had no fillings or repair work on his teeth.
All four of his wisdom teeth were impacted.
Anyone with information about this incident can call the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office at 609-909-7800, or go to www.acpo.org/tips.html to fill out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. Rewards also are offered through Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS).