Robert Afarian Went Missing in NJ in 1977, and There Have Been No Reported Sightings After His Car Was Found at an Airport in NYC


Today’s case is that of a man named Robert Afarian.  He was– or possibly still is– a father, a husband, a friend, and a brilliant musician of a rather unique genre.  Most importantly, though, he is missing. He was last seen on February 7, 1977 when he was 45 years old in Edgewater, Bergen County, New Jersey.  I chose to write about the case because I am from New Jersey myself, and I take a special interest in local cases. I also specialize in underrepresented cold cases.

Allow me to paint a picture.  For those of you unfamiliar with Edgewater, it is a city which is basically how its name describes: it sits on the edge of the water, right along the coast of the Hudson River, which separates New Jersey and New York.  Edgewater is adjacent to Manhattan, an area of New York City, New York.  To travel from Edgewater to New York City is– and was, even back in 1977– a hop, skip, and a jump.  All one would have to do is cross over the Lincoln Tunnel or the George Washington Bridge to get to New York City. 

I did some digging on the Almanac’s website, and I found that the weather on the day of Afarian’s disappearance had a high of 28° F and a low of 13° F.  The sea level was around 30″, and there was no precipitation.  So, what was Afarian doing on this clear, frigidly cold day?  He vanished into thin air, or it seemed at the time… until, a few weeks after his disappearance, when it was revealed that his vehicle, a silver 1974 BMW 2002 series, was found abandoned at the Kennedy Airport in New York City, New York.  He had presumably driven there and subsequently taken a flight.  

To where did he travel?  Did he even fly at all?  Was his disappearance staged to make it appear as though he took a flight, while he remained local and in plain view?  At the time his vehicle was located, were records and names obtained of all passengers who flew at that time checked?  Do these records still exist?  Was his name on the flight history chart? 

There is a high possibility that Afarian flew back to the area in which he was born, in Aleppo, Syria.

Robert Afarian’s Life:
Robert Afarian was born on August 8 or August 1 of 1931 (conflicting records) to Cerop Afarian and Ossana Gegigian.  He immigrated to the United States to the state of New Jersey around May of 1957, when he was almost 26 years old.  When he lived in Syria, his first name was different; it was changed to Robert after his immigration.  Speaking of his name, Robert Afarian is an uncommon name in the United States.  It would have been difficult for him to have lived off the radar for this long using that name, unless he traveled out of the country. There are others with his name in Canada, which I have found to not be the missing Robert Afarian.  The fact that he probably had to work hard to obtain citizenship in the first place to America makes me wonder if he would have wanted to face that challenge yet again in his 40’s in a new country.  

Upon researching Robert Afarian’s name to search for clues, I found an extensive amount of musical publications that reference his name.  Perhaps he continued his musical endeavors in another area.  His musical specialty was singing lead vocals for music that has been described on some sites as Persian / Armenian / Syrian / Arabic / Turkish / Israeli.  His music was also described on this site as “ensemble, rhythmic, acoustic, romantic, folklore, and male vocals”.  Noted on his albums is a musician named John Berberian. Being a musician myself, I greatly enjoyed listening to his music. You, too, can hear it by clicking here.  Perhaps someone may recognize Afarian’s singing voice, especially if he went on to record more music.  The last record I can find that credits Robert Afarian under that name was in 1972 and/or 1973.  The photo of him used at the top of this article are taken from my web searches from his album covers. 

The above photo shows Robert Afarian wearing a maroon or reddish colored shirt, in the bottom center.
The above photo is an album cover of “A Mid Eastern Odyssey”, presented by John Berberian. The center person is not Afarian, and I am uncertain if he is in the background in this photo. He is credited on this album.
The above photo is of the album titled, “Any Time of the Year”, in which Robert Afarian is a lead vocalist. He is not featured in this photo, but I wanted to show it so you can see the album.

The Search:
I reached out to Afarian’s son, Ronald Afarian, who holds onto hope that his father is still with us, but understands that if he were alive today, he would be in his nineties.  I asked Ronald Afarian if he believes that his father could easily fly under the radar in Syria, and he believes that it is very possible for that to be achieved in that country.  For this reason, I will be circulating this story to Syria as well.  There’s no guarantee he traveled there, and if he did, if he is still there today.  He could have ventured to another state. He may have even gone to another country, such as Canada or Mexico.  If I do not obtain any clues after circulating this story to Syrian communities, I will expand the geographical region for the search.

Physical Description:
Perhaps you know or knew Robert Afarian.  He may be going under an alias.  Take a look at his photo in this article… does he look familiar?  At the time of his disappearance, he was about 5’6″ to 5’7″ in height and about 150 to 160 pounds in weight.  He is of Middle-Eastern descent, specifically Syrian, and his complexion is tan.  His hair is–or was– black or dark brown, and it was noted to be very thick and full.  He had a decent amount of body hair and brown eyes.  He may have had or still has a marking at the tip of his nose, which may have spread to other areas of his nose.  In 1977, he had a tattoo of a religious symbol on his forearm. It is unknown if he had other tattoos or if he had that tattoo removed. 

Let’s talk about his accent and/or dialect.  Since he lived in Syria until his mid-twenties, he likely still had remnants of the Syrian accent when he vanished. If he remained in the United States, his accent may have diminished significantly by now, but it may still be present.  If he went to Canada, he would have had a very unique accent of both the [American] English accent (not to be confused with the British English accent), mixed with Syrian and Canadian.  No matter where he went, remnants of his accent mixtures may have followed. 

Mental Health:
There is speculation that Afarian may have been suffering depression around the time of his disappearance.  His NamUs profile states that he may have been troubled by a disease that affects the tip of his nose.

Burial Plot:
Although Robert Afarian was never located, his family had formed his burial plot in the event he was ever found.  I found this record online, which references his plot number of 106980111.  He has been legally declared deceased.

Unidentified / Unclaimed:
There is a chance that Robert Afarian has already passed away while living under an alias.  He may have even become an “unclaimed person”.  If he was using an alias and was located with identification in his possession in the United States, NamUs would have likely listed him as an “unclaimed person”. However, NamUs does not list all unclaimed people.  If he passed away with no known identity, he would have been classified as an “unidentified person”. In the event of him being unidentified and deceased in the United States, DNA is available in Codis to compare with Robert Afarian’s family members.  If he had passed away in another country, there are more obstacles to cross-reference the Codis system.  *I will try to find out what those obstacles entail, and when/if I have more information, I will update this article accordingly. 

Robert Afarian’s case has received little-to-no public awareness until I wrote this article.  Hopefully it will be shared, and his case will become more popular.  I also wanted to share this case in case anyone recognizes him or has any clues.  I have created a Facebook page for his disappearance, in case anyone wants to like and follow:

I also have tagged both Edgewater and the airport from where his car was found on the missing person map I created:

Most importantly, if you have any clues about Robert Afarian’s whereabouts or clues surrounding his disappearance, please contact the Edgewater Police Department at 609-877-4404.

Robert Afarian’s family member
Google Earth
Google Maps
Keftime USA:
Kennedy Airport in NYC, NY
Edgewater Police Department (for burial plot)
Ancient Faces
STRCTR: John Berberian – Anaya Bakdim (Vocals – Robert Afarian) by strctr
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STRCTR: John Berberian – Anaya Bakdim (Vocals – Robert Afarian) by strctr direct link:

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