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Family seeks answers after remains identified

Submitted photo Clarence Kelwaski was reported missing in August. His body was discovered Monday in the city.

JAMESTOWN — Nathan Kelwaski recalls his father’s happiest moments as being at the family camp. “He loved being out there in the middle of nowhere away from society,” Kelwaski said.

He described his father, Clarence, as a kind person, never mean, who liked to help other people. “He was the kind of person to give you the shirt off his back,” the 29-year-old said.

But Clarence Kelwaski also had his “demons,” struggling with drug addiction his son said caused a strain with some in the family. After a period of 11 to 12 years abusing drugs on and off, he successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program and stayed sober for a decade.

After a relapse, Clarence Kelwaski was admitted this summer into another drug rehab facility in Saratoga Springs.

Treatment, his son said, appeared to be going well. The 51-year-old had gained weight and was looking more like himself than the man seen in a police booking photograph taken prior to entering rehab.

“He was getting healthy and clean, getting his family back,” Nathan Kelwaski told The Post-Journal. “He was a family person. He loved being around people, around family.”

Clarence Kelwaski’s body was discovered Monday in a wooded area behind the 100 block of East Second Street in Jamestown. His family and police are now trying to piece together how he got from Saratoga Springs after checking himself out of treatment back to the city.

“We’re trying to figure out the how and when of what happened,” Nathan Kelwaski said. “The circumstances are very mysterious.”

Clarence Kelwaski was in a 30-day drug rehab program. According to his son, he was told he would be transported to another treatment facility that was closer to Jamestown.

“He was happy about that — being closer to home,” his son said.

However, Nathan Kelwaski believes his father may have been told by someone that his stay at the new facility would last a year. The family now worries that news may have prompted the 51-year-old to check himself out of treatment.

Clarence Kelwaski contacted relatives for money to pay for transportation home. However, he didn’t have identification on him, and no one heard from him again after he reached out.

The city man was reported missing Aug. 11. It’s not clear just yet how or when Clarence Kelwaski returned to Jamestown.

The partially decomposed remains of a white male were found around noon Monday behind a building on East Second Street. Members of the Chautauqua County Forensic Investigation Team as well as a county coroner responded, and Kelwaski was later identified with help of the family.

An autopsy was performed Tuesday morning at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo in an attempt to determine the cause of death.

According to the Jamestown Police Department, the official autopsy results are pending further medical tests.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Clarence Kelwaski,” said Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department. “We are working to find out how he may have returned back to Jamestown. We do not believe he took public transportation and may have received a ride from someone in the Jamestown area to return back to Jamestown. We would like that person or persons to contact us.”

Nathan Kelwaski is eager to learn what happened to his father, described as a mechanic with a lifelong love of vehicles. His dream job was to operate heavy machinery.

Prior to his death, Nathan Kelwaski said his father was on the right path to recovery and reconnecting with his family.

“Some of us became estranged because of his addiction, but there was still family that was close, helping him get clean and into rehab,” his son said. “I think he came to realize the choices he made. He regretted his decisions and how he let things get the way they were.”

He urged those with a loved one suffering from addition to reach out to that loved one. “A minute spent with them is a minute sober,” he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Jamestown Police Department at 716-483-7537 or the anonymous tips line at 483-8477. Information can also be left through the Tips 411 app. All tips are strictly confidential.

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