Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

George Marsh, possibly with his wife

Real Name: Josef Zelenka
Case: Lost Heirs
Date: October 21, 1982
Location: Kansas City, Missouri


Details: A man who went by the name George Marsh was a retired laborer who lived in a Kansas City nursing home. When he passed away on October 21, 1982, he left behind an unclaimed fortune of $175,000. So far, investigators have been unable to find his heirs. They have also found little information about him.
George did not talk much about his past, saying only that he used to "work hard". He moved to Kansas City in 1917. For the next twenty years, there were no records of his employment. In 1942, he worked as a laborer for the railroad. In the early 1950s, he worked as a night watchman for the Armour Meat Packing Company. Other records for the two jobs were lost, however. For sixty years, he lived downtown in the Quality Hill area of Kansas City.
These facts were discovered by heir investigator Michael Ledmann. From interviewing people who knew George, he learned that he was very secretive and did not share much about his past. A store manager recalled that he had been a customer at his store for about ten years. He always tried to buy the cheaper items and always paid with cash.
In 1979, the apartment building George lived in was destroyed by a fire. He lost his home and all of his belongings. As a result, he was forced to move into the nursing home. One of the nurses recalled that he spoke with a German accent, was right-handed, and one of his right fingers was cut off at the joint. He also had the numbers "3 4 5 7" written on his arm.
During his stay at the nursing home, George only had one visitor. She identified herself as his sister, "Lula May Marsh". She claimed that she was from New Mexico. She has never been traced. Voter registration records show that George may have been married. For several years, she lived at the same address as him. However, she disappeared from the records by 1946. Interestingly, he told another nurse that he had a son. However, he told her that he had not seen him for years.
After his death, it was discovered that George had nine secret checking accounts at four different banks, which totaled $175,000. This information was given to the County Public Administration's Office, whose job is to find his heirs.

George's niece Eleanor

Investigators also found several clues among George's possessions. One document found was his birth certificate, which showed that he had been born "Josef Zelenka" in Czechoslovakia; at some point, he had changed his name. One paper showed that he had divorced a woman named "Catherine Zelenka" in 1932. Several family photographs were found: one had "Your loving niece Eleanor" written on the front; another had "Catherine" written on the back; yet another was of a young boy, possibly his son. Heir investigators are hoping to find his family so that they can collect on his inheritance.
Suspects: George's birth name may have been Josef Zelenka. He is believed to have been married at least twice, to Catherine Zelenka and another woman named Lula May. His niece is believed to have been named Eleanor. He also may have had a son.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the Unsolved Mysteries Special #3 on September 24, 1987.

Zelenka family after learning about George's fate

Results: Solved. George's niece, Eleanor Tolar, was watching the broadcast and was shocked when she saw her high school graduation picture. She also recognized the one of George and realized that it was her "Uncle Joe". His real name was confirmed to be Josef Zelenka. The Zelenka family lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming. His brother, Jim, has been looking for him since 1931.
After the broadcast, Eleanor, Jim, and several other relatives claimed Josef's inheritance. They, however, did not care for it as much as they wanted to bury him on the family plot.
Jim and Eleanor have since passed away; him in 1995 and her in 1998.