Forensic experts on Tuesday identified a body buried in Georgia for nearly 40 years as a 15-year-old Michigan boy who was reported missing in 1979.
Andrew Jackson Greer Jr., of Clayton, vanished Feb. 12, 1979, after leaving Addison High School and failing to return home. Michigan State Police officials said in a news release that the cold case was reopened in 2014 with the help of new technology and resources.
“A forensic analyst from the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas today confirmed that DNA from a ‘John Doe,’ who was buried in a pauper’s grave in Macon, Ga., in 1979, matches Greer’s DNA,” officials said in the release.
The positive identification came just three days after what would have been Greer’s 55th birthday.
The Daily Telegram in Adrian, Michigan, reported that Greer, who apparently ran away from home after getting in trouble at school, was hitchhiking through Georgia two days after his disappearance when he was struck by a semi truck along Interstate 75 near Macon.
The teen, who reportedly had only candy bars and taffy on him when he died, was trying to cross the interstate when he was struck, the Telegram reported. Another truck driver told investigators in Georgia that he’d given the hitchhiker a ride in the Atlanta area.
Michigan State Police Detective Larry Rothman told the Telegram that the teen told the driver he was traveling to Key West, Florida, to visit relatives. Greer had family living there at the time.
The boy even gave the truck driver a name before they parted: Drew Greer.
The details of the Georgia investigation never made it to Michigan at the time, and the unidentified young man was eventually buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Another investigation in 2000 failed to turn up information on Greer’s whereabouts, Michigan State Police officials said. The cold case was reopened in 2014, at the urging of Greer’s family, with the hope that new technology could help find the missing teen.
Anthony Strickland, a retired Bibb County deputy who, as a young officer, had seen Greer buried in an unmarked grave in April 1979, took a look at the case in 2017 and linked it to Greer’s disappearance, the Telegram reported.
He compared notes with Rothman, and their information fit, the newspaper reported. Rothman traveled to Georgia and the long-buried body was exhumed.
“A DNA sample was taken from ‘John Doe’ at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and sent to the Center for Human Identification for comparison,” the troopers news release said. “The results concluded that it was 1.9 trillion times more likely that the DNA from ‘John Doe’ was that of Greer than not. Together, the DNA results and police reports conclude they are one in the same.”
Greer’s half brother, John Bowman, told the Telegram that he believed authorities had found his brother in February, when the remains were exhumed.
“I felt confident when we got the news in February about what they found then that it was him,” Bowman told the newspaper.
Bowman, who was just 4 years old when his older half brother vanished, told The Detroit News the family plans to have Greer’s remains cremated and returned to Michigan, where they will hold a memorial service.
Unfortunately, the brothers’ mother died last year never knowing what happened to her son.
“It was my trying to help my mom find that answer that led us to this place,” Bowman told the News. “Hopefully, she knows the truth today.”