Family left with questions after 22-year disappearance solved
Human remains found off Maine in 2000 have been identified as Philip Kahn, 84.
Updated January 15, 2023 - 6:12 pm
Philip Kahn got out of bed one morning in the summer of 2000 and announced to his family he was getting on a plane.
The married 84-year-old retired cab driver, who lived in a Las Vegas mobile home park with his wife, Jean, said he was going to Florida to get holistic treatment for a health condition.
That was the last time anybody in his family ever saw him, said Kahn’s wife’s daughter Judy Drago, 81, in an interview on Sunday.
Now, after more than two decades, Drago and Kahn’s other relatives finally have answers — but also more questions — about what happened to Kahn.
Notified earlier this month that human remains found in the Atlantic Ocean 27 miles off the coast of Maine on July 24, 2000, have been identified as Kahn’s, Drago said she and her family have been left grateful that they finally know what happened to Kahn but also bewildered.
“We have more questions than answers,”Drago said. “We have no idea how he got to Maine.”
Drago said the news brought back memories of the life that Kahn and her mother Jean Oliver Kahn enjoyed but was so abruptly ended when he disappeared.
“We were sad and of course it brings back memories of my mom again,” Drago said. “And yes, we’re at peace now.”
According to the State of Maine Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Philip Kahn’s body had been found by the U.S. Coast Guard on July 24, 2000. Officials couldn’t figure out who the man was, and they revisited the case over the years, finally making an identification with the help of the FBI in recent weeks.
Drago said on Sunday the medical examiner told her they had made the positive ID days before Drago got the news about ten days ago.
“The FBI was able to match Maine’s unidentified person fingerprints and dental records to Mr. Kahn, who had been reported missing in Las Vegas, in 2000,” said a statement issued Jan. 11 by the Maine medical examiner.
According to the original missing person report taken by a Metro officer, Kahn left home on July 9 at about 7 p.m., with a neighbor driving him to then-McCarran International Airport. Twelve days later, on July 21, Judy Drago told an officer taking the report that her mother was very upset, as nobody had seen or heard from Kahn since.
The report also said that Kahn “liquidated all of his assets and sent a letter and some money to his sister and gave power of attorney to his wife” and that he also had a new Visa credit card that his wife didn’t know the number of. Drago wanted to know if any activity had taken place on the card, the report said.
Asked if Kahn seemed suicidal, Drago said he did not.
“He wanted, like I said, to go forward and get this fixed a different way,” Drago said. “No, not to me, and not to any other members of my family or mom or anybody.”
At the time, Drago said Kahn told his family he was going to Coral Gables, Florida, in search of holistic treatment for an ailment — Drago remembered this as possibly being an aortic embolism — because he didn’t fancy the idea of going under the knife for surgery.
A few weeks after Kahn went missing, Drago said the family was told by the Metropolitan Police Department that they’d managed to find out from airline records that he’d flown to New York, contradicting what Kahn had told the family.
Philip and Jean Kahn “were a good match” and had a good life together, Drago said.
They met in their 60s and were married for good 20 or so years, Drago recalled. Philip, born in Manhattan, grew up in the Great Depression and rode the rails seeking work. Born with the last name Erlichman — and Drago wasn’t sure of the actual spelling — he changed his last name to Kahn because he didn’t want to bring shame to his family with his lack of money, Drago recalled.
He lived in Florida and then moved to Las Vegas. He had two brothers and a sister that he kept in touch with, the brothers dying before he disappeared and the sister dying in the years after.
He was a tall, happy man, Drago recalled. His friends in the Las Vegas taxi industry called him Stretch. He was tanned, liked to swim, and loved the warm weather.
He and his wife went on cruises, went dancing, and otherwise enjoyed their life together while living in the Pleasant Valley mobile home park on Decatur Boulevard between Flamingo Road and Twain Avenue.
The couple were even extras in the 1988 movie “Rain Man,” starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Partially filmed in Las Vegas, the Kahns are in a scene with Cruise and Hoffman. As those two stars walk off the escalator heading down, the Kahns board the one going up.
He also showed no signs of dementia, Drago said.
As for his wife, she endured all the emotions to be expected by such a disappearance but she went on with life, her daughter said.
“Amazingly well,” Drago said about how her mom took the disappearance. “She did not fall apart. She continued to live her life. She was sad and mad and angry and all the emotions came through, but it didn’t’ affect her living or health or anything.”
Jean Kahn, who had worked as a pre-school teacher, died in December 2007 at 89.
Drago also said that she was told that Philip Kahn was cremated and interred at Gracelawn Memorial Park in Aurburn, Maine. For now, there are no plans to move his remains, she said.
“We’re happy he was identified and that he was cremated,” Drago said. “We’re all glad for that.”
Contact Brett Clarkson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.