Killed in a 1961 Crash, ‘Unknown Boy’ Is Finally Identified

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The enigma of a teenage hitchhiker, present identified arsenic Daniel Paul Armantrout, was solved 60 years aboriginal due to the fact that of advances successful DNA exertion and genealogy.

 “Killed successful  automobile mishap  March 27, 1961. Unknown successful  beingness  but recognized successful  death. Donated by radical   of Bibb County who emotion  children.”
Credit...Bibb County Sheriff Jody Wade and Identifinders International

Nov. 3, 2021, 8:14 a.m. ET

They called him “Unknown Boy.”

The blue-eyed hitchhiker with olive tegument drowned erstwhile the car helium was riding successful crashed done the obstruction of a span and plunged into the Cahaba River successful Bibb County, Ala., connected March 27, 1961, according to an F.B.I. report. The operator survived the clang and offered a fewer details astir the lad but not capable to place him.

The lad had a battalion of Pall Mall cigarettes connected him, a Timex ticker connected his wrist and a Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception tied astir his cervix with fabric twine. He had been hitchhiking done Alabama, perchance en way to California, but not overmuch other was known astir him.

The section authorities tried for weeks to place him and find his family. A viewing was held for him astatine a section ceremonial home, wherever galore municipality leaders came to wage their respects. The kid was buried successful a coffin that section residents paid for, nether a achromatic marble headstone that read, “Unknown successful Life but Recognized successful Death.”

Last week, much than 60 years later, the enigma was solved, the merchandise of advances successful DNA exertion and genealogy. The lad was 15-year-old Daniel Paul Armantrout, known arsenic Danny, according to a section coroner and genealogists, and confirmed successful an interrogation by a surviving brother.

The lawsuit underscores the imaginable of forensic genealogy, successful which DNA samples are tally done genealogical databases to find matches. Sleuths from Identifinders International, a institution that uses the method to assistance lick acold cases, ran familial worldly from the lad done a genealogy website beloved by hobbyists called GEDmatch. It was a tract that detectives successful caller years utilized to assistance lick the lawsuit of the Golden State Killer, who murdered 13 radical and raped dozens of women successful the 1970s and 1980s.

In Centreville, Ala., section officials said they ne'er stopped reasoning astir the mysterious young hitchhiker who mislaid his beingness successful their county.

“It conscionable means the satellite to this municipality that we were capable to lick this case,” said CW West, Bibb County’s elected coroner. “I lived a mates miles from the cemetery Danny was buried in. I passed by it each the time. Pretty overmuch everybody present knew astir this case.”

Mr. West spoke connected the telephone past week with an older member of Danny’s, Don Hamilton, of Seminole, Fla. They some started crying.

Mr. Hamilton, 77, said successful an interrogation that he, Danny and different brother, David, grew up successful a severely abusive household. David, 2 years his senior, had besides tally away, and Mr. Hamilton hasn’t heard from him since.

Their alcoholic stepfather whipped their bare backs with a loop and burned their fingers with matches. The brothers went weekends astatine a clip without food. Their parent told them she wished they had ne'er been born, Mr. Hamilton said. The parent and stepfather are deceased.

Mr. Hamilton escaped arsenic soon arsenic helium could, joining the Army astatine property 17.

Despite his childhood, Mr. Hamilton made a bully beingness for himself. He had a 30-year vocation successful the Army, retiring successful 1989 arsenic a sergeant major. He met his woman portion stationed successful Germany, fell successful emotion and has been joined for much than 40 years. He has 2 daughters and 8 grandchildren. A precocious schoolhouse dropout, helium earned an associate’s grade successful concern absorption successful the 1990s and was a nutrition coordinator for galore years.

But a time didn’t pass, helium said, that helium didn’t wonderment what had go of his 2 brothers. About David, the oldest. And astir his younger brother, the polio-stricken and fragile Danny.

In 2016, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children helped the section authorities successful exhuming the assemblage of the unidentified Alabama boy, to spot if modern DNA exertion could assistance lick the mystery.

Researchers built a mitochondrial DNA illustration and uploaded it into the Combined DNA Index System, a nationalist database maintained by the F.B.I., but nary matches to missing persons were made, Carol Schweitzer, a supervisor astatine the center, said successful an email. The lawsuit again went dormant.

Earlier this year, Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, the laminitis and president of Identifinders International, contacted Mr. West, the caller coroner, and they started moving unneurotic to springiness the lawsuit different try. Advanced processing techniques that weren’t disposable successful 2016 were present utilized to make familial information to marque the match, Dr. Fitzpatrick said.

Forensic genealogy has its critics, who person privateness concerns astir utilizing familial worldly to way down relatives successful transgression cases. Some states, similar Maryland and Montana, person precocious made it harder for investigators to usage the method.

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Credit...FBI

In Maryland, cases volition request a judge’s sign-off earlier utilizing the method, and the instrumentality besides requires that the method beryllium utilized lone for superior crimes similar execution and intersexual assault. Montana’s instrumentality is narrower, ordering that authorities investigators get a hunt warrant earlier utilizing a user DNA database, unless the user has waived the close to privacy.

Ms. Schweitzer, from the missing children’s center, calls the method a almighty investigative instrumentality that “has breathed caller life” into challenging cases.

“We person learned that a bully fig of our unidentified juveniles were ne'er reported missing to police, for countless reasons, truthful relying solely connected searching missing persons reports is not capable enough,” she said.

Since 2018, she said, the halfway has witnessed much than 32 cases of unidentified juveniles having their names returned arsenic a effect of genealogy efforts. She said the lawsuit of Danny Armantrout represented the oldest unidentified juvenile lawsuit the halfway had known to beryllium resolved.

The past clip Mr. Hamilton saw Danny was erstwhile helium was location from subject work for a mates of weeks during Christmas interruption successful 1960, soon earlier the youngest member ran away. The 2 went into the mountains by their agrarian location successful Tennessee to spell squirrel shooting, 1 of their favourite activities. One of their lone activities, actually. They were ungraded poor. There was nary TV. No phone. Few different kids around.

Mr. Hamilton said that Danny didn’t accidental thing to him astir moving distant but that helium knew Danny made the aforesaid calculation the older brothers had already made: They could instrumentality astir and instrumentality the maltreatment oregon effort beingness connected their own.

“It wasn’t overmuch of a choice,” Mr. Hamilton said.

Mr. Hamilton, and the municipality that laid the lad to remainder the archetypal time, volition accidental goodbye again by dedicating a sedate cover, this 1 with a sanction attached and this clip with a loved 1 present.

The granite slab volition person the sanction of the brothers’ biologic father, Armantrout. Hamilton was the sanction of their abusive stepfather, Mr. Hamilton said. It’s excessively precocious for a sanction alteration for himself, helium said, arsenic helium is good established successful the satellite arsenic Don Hamilton, but helium wanted his small member to flight the name, astatine slightest astatine his sedate site.

Mr. Hamilton plans to thrust his centrifugal location to Centreville for the ceremony, scheduled for Dec. 28, which would person been Danny’s 76th birthday.

“I’m bittersweet due to the fact that I won’t ever get to spot my member alive,” helium said. “My bosom feels bully I’m going to beryllium capable to bless his sedate site.”

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