Tests confirmed the remains of an unknown person buried in Georgia are those of a 15-year-old boy who ran away from his southeastern Michigan home in 1979, authorities said.
Michigan State Police said a forensic analyst from University of North Texas' Center for Human Identification on Tuesday revealed the DNA match with Dennis Greer. Investigators said he left his high school in the Lenawee County community of Addison on Feb. 12, 1979, and two days later was struck and killed by a semi-truck while hitchhiking some 630 miles away near Macon, Georgia.
"It's a bittersweet ... ending," said James Bowman, Greer's half-brother, who contacted a reporter at the Daily Telegram of Adrian in 2014 in an effort to restart the case that had gone cold by 2000. "Of course, as a family we all wanted him to be alive. ... But today we get the closure it's officially him and he's been found."
The newspaper stories and fresh state police detective work that ensued led to joint efforts between Michigan and Georgia investigators. A retired sheriff's deputy from Georgia's Bibb County made the connection to Greer last December, and the body was exhumed in April for testing.
Bowman, who now lives in San Marcos, Texas, said he wishes their mother was alive for the confirmation. She died last year and "dealt with the agony of wanting to know what happened," he said.
"It was my trying to help my mom find that answer that led us to this place," Bowman said. "Hopefully, she knows the truth today."
Bowman, who was 4 ½ when Greer disappeared, said the family plans to have the remains cremated, bring them to Michigan for a memorial service and "put him to rest."