The mystery of a teen who went missing in Michigan nearly four decades ago came to a tragic conclusion this week when state authorities announced they had identified his remains in a pauper’s grave more than 500 miles away.
Andrew Jackson Greer was just 15 when he walked out of his high school in Addison, a small town in southern Michigan, on Feb. 12, 1979. His mother reported him missing at 5:10 p.m. that afternoon, and after a sighting in Clayton County, just outside Flint, he was never seen again.
Now, 39 years later, the mystery of what befell Greer appears to be solved.
Michigan State Police revealed Monday that authorities have positively identified the remains of a “John Doe” in a pauper’s grave in Macon, Ga., as belonging to the teenage runaway, according to a statement.
Greer is believed to have hitch-hiked down to Georgia, where he was apparently struck and killed by the driver of a tractor-trailer speeding along I-75 near Macon, police said. With nothing to identify him, he was buried there and both cases — the disappearance of Greer and the identity of the dead John Doe — went cold for decades.
The case was reopened in 2000, but came up short once more, officials said. But then, armed with new technologies and resources, investigators took another look in 2014, but still made little progress with the case, according to Michigan State Police.
It was not until December 2017, when a retired deputy with the sheriff’s department in Bibb County, which includes Macon, made the connection between the Greer and the young boy buried in Georgia, police said. That deputy contacted Michigan State Police, who traveled to Georgia to investigate, and with the help of local authorities and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, exhumed John Doe’s body for DNA testing.
The results, when they came back, were nearly unequivocal. The DNA from the body of the slain hitch-hiker was 1.9 trillion times more likely that of Greer’s than not, police said. Between the DNA results and the police report for the death of the young hitch-hiker, police concluded that they are the same, police said.
Greer’s half-brother, James Bowman, told the Detroit Free Press that the news was sad, but offered closure to the open wound of Greer’s disappearance.
“It’s a bittersweet ... ending,” Bowman told the newspaper. "Of course, as a family we all wanted him to be alive. ... But today we get the closure it's officially him and he's been found."
Bowman was just 4 years old when his big brother vanished, but in 2014 he reached out to a reporter at a local newspaper in an effort to crack the case, the Free Press reports. He was motivated partially out of a desire to bring closure to his mother, who has since died.
"It was my trying to help my mom find that answer that led us to this place," Bowman said, according to the Free Press "Hopefully, she knows the truth today."
Bowman told the newspaper the family plans to have Greer’s remains cremated and “put him to rest” in Michigan.
[Photo: National Institute of Justice]