More than two decades ago, a boy's remains were found under a North Carolina billboard, but authorities weren't able to identify the victim until recently. Now the boy's father is being accused of murder.
John Russell Whitt, 57, was indicted back in May on murder and concealing a death charges, according to WRAL. On Monday, he had his first preliminary hearing for first-degree murder. He’s accused of killing his son and then dumping his body under a billboard in Mebane, located right off an interstate. The boy’s remains were found by a grass-cutting crew in 1998 when a crew member came across a skull.
The identity of the remains has long remained a mystery. That is, until February of this year when the remains were identified as 10-year-old Robert "Bobby" Whitt, thanks to DNA techniques and a facial reconstruction.
Investigators believe that Whitt killed both Robert and Robert’s mother, WTVD, an outlet from Raleigh, reported in February.
“Based on information gathered from the family, investigators determined a strong possibility existed that the child’s mother had also been killed during the same time period,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Office stated. The mother’s body was found in Spartanburg County, South Carolina and for decades also remained unidentified. She was ID'd in January as Myong Hwa Cho, WRAL reports.
Then, the DNA of both victims were compared.
“The two were confirmed to be mother and son,” according to the sheriff’s office. Both are believed to have been killed in 1998. Investigators think Cho was suffocated while the boy was strangled, according to Raleigh's News & Observer.
Whitt was already in federal prison in Kentucky on robbery charges when he was indicted for his son's murder. He has been transferred to an Orange County jail in North Carolina, where he will remain until his trial.
He has not been formally charged for the death of Cho but investigators say that is expected to come at a later date, possibly as early as September, according to the News & Observer.
For now, there is relief that this case, which at some point seemed nearly impossible to crack, appears to be a case of justice delayed, not justice denied.
"I’ve waited 20-plus years for this moment – to start the ball rolling officially,” retired investigator Tim Horne, who had worked on the case for Orange County Sheriff's Office, told WRAL. "That's very rewarding to see it move forward, both for me and the family. I've been in communication with the family as well, and they were very appreciative of the efforts and happy that we're going forward."
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