39 Years After Unknown Teen Is Killed on Highway, Cops Finally Learn His Identity


I know that a lot of people find themselves a bit unnerved by the advances in DNA technology. Lately, we’ve seen a stream of stories about individuals getting caught over decades-old crimes due entirely to the content of their genetic code.

The most unnerving part of these tales is how authorities used publicly available data from genealogy testing services like in the their investigations. In virtually all of the cases, the crooks’ relatives had placed their genetic material on file, not the criminals themselves.

Yes, I can understand why the greater public might feel uneasy about the potential abuse of these advancements. Then again, I’m happy to see that the authorities are using the tech to address cold cases once thought unsolvable.

Consider a not-so-recent case out of Georgia. On Feb. 14, 1979, an unidentified teenage boy was down near I-75 and tried to cross the busy interstate. A truck struck him, and he died.

According to The Daily Telegram, the young teen only had candy in his pockets when he passed away, not any identification. When no one claimed the body, he was buried in an unmarked grave.

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Meanwhile, a missing person case was unfolding at the same time in Addison, Michigan. The Charley Project, a website dedicated to cataloging U.S. cold cases, contains an entry for Andrew Jackson Greer, Jr., a 15 year old who vanished on Feb. 12, 1979.

Greer’s disappearance coincided with some trouble he got into at his school. Scott Szeve, a childhood friend, told The Daily Telegram that Greer received a suspension over a pocket knife.

“He got kicked out of school because he had a pocket knife,” Szeve said. “Apparently, he cut up a bus seat, and he was afraid to go home.”

The boys hung out at a clubhouse on property that Szeve’s family owned. When Greer left that day, Szeve didn’t know that he’d be the last person to see his friend.

“Various rumors about Andrew’s disappearance circulated the area after he vanished, but none of these could be confirmed,” The Charley Project stated. “He didn’t have a driver’s license or Social Security number at the time of his disappearance, and there’s been no sign of him since 1979.”

However, that didn’t stop the family from looking. In 2000, a very sick Andrew Greer, Sr. begged police to once again look into his son’s case.

The reopened investigation went nowhere. Then in 2015, authorities gave it another crack after Greer’s half-brother, James Bowman, asked them to try yet again.

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This time they got results. They were able to track down a truck driver in Georgia who said he’d given a teenage hitchhiker a lift.

The boy matched Greer’s description, and he’d said that he was on his way to Key West to visit relatives. The only step left was to see if the remains in that unidentified grave were a genetic match for Greer.

Authorities had an answer not long after exhuming the burial site. The unidentified hitchhiker was indeed Andrew Jackson Greer, Jr.

“It’s bittersweet, really,” Bowman said. “I wish my mom would have been here to hear the news.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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