When Ernest Michalik went missing in October 2005, police described him as a loner who had no known friends.
Three and a half years later, police in Rotterdam have identified his remains, which were found this week in a wooded area near the bicycle trail off Rice Road.
Police continue to investigate the cause of Michalik’s death, which they are treating as a homicide, as they do with any death under unknown circumstances. After a man on the trail spotted the bones Thursday morning, police said the remains were not a full skeleton and had been in the woods for a long time.
On Saturday, police identified the remains as those of Michalik. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said he wasn’t sure how police made the identification but he didn’t think DNA was used.
Michalik had been living at the Schenectady YMCA at 13 State St. and was last seen around State Street and Washington Avenue walking away from the YMCA, according to the online database for the National Center for Missing Adults.
The Fort Plain native was 58 when he went missing and hadn’t had contact with his family for five years before that, police said.
His sister, Kathryn Michalik of Fort Plain, said, “I’m sad that what happened to Ernie happened, but I knew it was going to happen because he isolated himself.” She was estranged from her family and last saw her brother 30 years ago. She said she now believes her brother had some degree of autism, though the disorder wasn’t recognized when they were growing up. Even as a child, he showed some of the signs.
“If you smiled at him, he wouldn’t smile back,” she recalled.
Later, he was unable to hold down a job for a long time, had a violent temper and had trouble getting close to people, his sister said. She described him as always trying a new get-rich-quick scheme.
“Somehow, he always dreamed of getting a lot of money without working for it,” she said.
She thinks her brother met with foul play because he had a large amount of cash in his room, but he didn’t take it with him when he disappeared.
His aunt, Lana Erhardt, recalls Ernest going to be by himself if family members got too friendly.
“He did have friends when he went to high school,” she said.
A few years before he disappeared, Ernest moved to Schenectady to be on his own.
He grew up on his family’s farm in Fort Plain, and Erhardt lived with the family for a short time after he was born.
A teenager then, she baby-sat the infant Ernest.
“I’m glad at least we know he is dead and he’s not suffering,” Erhardt said.
His parents, Edward and Rosina Michalik, both died in the past several years.