(Sumter) – Sumter authorities literally broke ground yesterday on a thirty-year-old cold case. They exhumed the bodies of two young people mysteriously killed in 1976 in order to perform DNA tests.
Authorities say it’s not only a matter of who killed the young man and woman, but who the victims were to begin with. Their bodies were found without identification and no missing persons report was ever filed.
Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore remembers when they were first found: off I-95 on August 9, 1976. A truck driver discovered the man, who is said to be in his mid-twenties, and the woman, believed to be 19 years old to her early twenties. They lay dead on a dirt road, shot execution style in the head and neck.
“Surely somebody’s got to be looking for them,” said Moore, who was a deputy coroner at the time.
Piecing it all together has been Moore’s priority; and she says, the ball is finally rolling.
After trying for years to get the go-ahead to exhume the bodies for DNA testing, Moore got an answer last week. Excavation began Monday, and bone and teeth samples were collected from the decayed corpses.
The samples collected were sent off to SLED for DNA testing. From there, they’ll be matched to databases around the world.
“I hope to hear that they matched with another family member. Hopefully that’s what we’ll find,” Moore said.
She says this is technology that has only become available in recent years, but has proven to be successful in cold cases.
And in this case, it’s the last hope:
“We have no other leads. We have tried everything we could,” Moore said.
Moore says it’s the best chance they’ve got to find an answer, find closure, and find names for the faces.
“The families I’m sure are grieving for them and they don’t know where they are at. If we can help, that will be something we need to do,” Moore said.
Moore says it should take about a month for SLED to process the DNA. From that point, it will be sent out to FBI and Interpol databases. Only time will tell if they’ll get a match.