Teen missing for 43 years finally identified thanks to cemetery worker

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GULFPORT, Miss. — A Mississippi resident missing for 43 years has been identified as the unnamed teenager killed in a traffic accident in Texas City, Texas, in 1973.

Harrison County Sheriff’s Investigator Kristi Johnson tells The Sun Herald that Mary Raskin, mother of missing teen Joseph Spears, ended up looking at pictures of her son’s body to positively identify him. He died on Aug. 23, 1973.

According to The Sun Herald, Spears escaped from the Harrison County Youth Detention Center when he was 17 on July 31, 1973. His family never heard from him again.

It turns out, Spears was hit by a car on Aug. 23, 1973, as he was crossing a freeway in Texas City. He had no form of identification on him at the time, so his identity was never determined.

The Texas City community came together to raise money for a funeral and grave for the teen.

After seeing newspaper clippings and learning about the case, a cemetery worker man years later began trying to find the teen’s family to let them know what had happened. She ended up finding information on Spears on the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

The body was exhumed shortly after, and was positively identified as Spears.

“I have mixed emotions,” Johnson told The Sun Herald. “I am relieved the case is solved but I know it’s not the outcome Mrs. Raskin was hoping for. I’m sad for her but I’m glad she is getting the answers she was searching for 43 years. The family has shared their appreciation for us working on this.”

Read more here.