Cemetery Worker Finds Teen Missing Since 1973

The family of Joseph Spears finally has answers
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2016 12:33 PM CDT
Cemetery Worker Finds Teen Missing Since 1973
Joseph Spears disappeared in 1973. His body was finally identified this month.   (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System)

After 43 years, a Mississippi mother finally knows what happened to her son thanks to the curiosity and diligence of a cemetery worker, the Sun Herald reports. Curious about an unidentified teen buried in a Galveston, Texas, cemetery after being hit by a car in August 1973, Chelsea Davidson started looking through missing persons databases and news stories about missing people. She came to believe the body belonged to Joseph Spears, a 17-year-old who escaped from a Mississippi youth detention center in July 1973 and hadn't been seen since. She contacted Kristi Johnson, a Mississippi sheriff's investigator, and the body of the unidentified teen was exhumed in February.

DNA testing on the body was a failure, but Spears' mother, Mary Raskin, used photos from the teen's autopsy to identify him as her son this month. Johnson says she's happy Raskin finally has an answer to what happened to her son. It's a moment that might never have happened. Spears wasn't added to the missing persons database where Davidson came across him until 2013, WLOX reports. Since being identified, Spears' body was cremated and his remains sent to his mother and family in California. "If every cemetery had an employee like Chelsea, we would be able to solve a lot more cases,” Johnson tells the Sun Herald. (A baby who went missing in 1978 might have turned up.)

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