DNA test solves 30-year-old cold case

Officials announced a 30-year-old cold case has been solved Wednesday when a DNA test identified human remains discovered by a fisherman decades ago.

Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin Hall said during a press conference that bones found near the Jackson River in Virginia belong to Michael Perdue.

According to The Roanoke Times, authorities believe the boy drowned in May 1985 while fleeing a gas station in Covington that he or a friend may have firebombed. He was 17 years old at the time.

At the sheriff's side at the time of the announcement was Wally Perdue, who was holding the box of his younger brother Michael's ashes. The family plans to take the box back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to finally lay him to rest.

"A brother's love never dies," Wally Perdue told reporters at the press conference. "Thank y'all. Let's go home, Michael."

The Perdue boys barely knew their parents. Their father abandoned them early in life, and their mother died of a brain hemorrhage a while after, The Roanoke Times reports.

They were sent to live with their grandmother, and soon the boys were constantly getting into trouble.

"We were wild ones," Wally Perdue to The Roanoke Times. "We walked every inch of these mountains. We didn't do no evil, but we did a little bad."

According to Hall's account, Michael Perdue was at a gas station in Covington when it was firebombed, and he fled with a second teenager who was later arrested.

A summary of the case from the sheriff's office obtained by The Roanoke Times says Michael Perdue tried to get away by swimming across the river, but he did not make it and he drowned.

Since no body was found at the time, Hall said at the press conference that a flood in 1985 might have swept his remains onto the riverbank, where it was later recovered by two fisherman.

Hall told authorities at the press conference that authorities immediately had a theory about the remains.

"For 30 years, everybody thought it was Michael," he said."We're a small area, and he was the only missing person. Most people at the time had a pretty good guess."

By the time they had worked up the theory, though, he said family members had moved away and authorities could not find anyone to help them solve the case.

For decades, the unidentified remains were kept in storage at the medical examiner's office -- until the U.S. Marshals Service, National Missing and Unidentified Person System, the FBI's forensic anthropology services and other agencies decided to revisit the case.

They worked up a three-dimensional image of what the missing person would have looked like based on what they gathered from the skull, but that didn't help much.

What finally cracked the case was Y-STR testing -- a type of DNA test that examines the Y chromosome that is passed unchanged from fathers to sons, according to The Roanoke Times.

Since Michael Perdue's father was no where to be found, authorities searched for his brother, Wally Perdue.

When they found him in August, they also found the answer to a 30-year-old mystery.

Hall announced the results Wednesday with tears in his eyes, The Roanoke Times reports.

"This is a great day to be wearing a badge," Hall said at the press conference.

Wally Perdue said at the press conference that his family accepts that his brother drowned.

"I feel that his spirit is still walking this earth. And now that we're laying him to rest, he can go home with the rest of his family."

See photos from other similar cases:

Notable cold cases and unsolved murders throughout history
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Notable cold cases and unsolved murders throughout history

In June 1893 Lizzie Borden stood trial, later acquitted, for killing her father and stepmother with an ax.

(Photo via Bettmann/Getty Images)

Foreboding Kingsbury Run, shunned by the timid as the legend of its murders has grown, is indicated on this map by dots locating 10 of the 11 torso murders which have occurred there since Sept. 23, 1935. Police, delving into the lives of the mad murderer's victims, hope to uncover clues which will end the periodic killings. Discovery of photo negatives in the belongings of Edward Andra Ssy, first victim, show Andra Ssy in a strange room which, if identified, may provide a live lead, police believe. As the map shows, the murderer departed only twice from his custom of assailing victims in Kingsbury Run or adjacent Cuyahoga river valley.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Bucks Row, now Durward Street, east London, where the body of Mary Ann Nichols, victim of Jack the Ripper, was found lying across the gutter.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Head shot of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, a murder victim nicknamed the Black Dahlia. 

(Photo via Bettmann/Getty Images)

Daily News front page dated June, 16, 1990, Headline: IS HE THE ZODIAC?, Police sketch of man who approached latest victim in Central Park last Thursday and asked him his birth date., June 26, 1990 . , Zodiac Killer. , Heriberto Seda. Headlines. IS HE THE ZODIAC ?

(Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

U.S. labor leader Jimmy Hoffa is photographed at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport, Pennsylvania in this April 12, 1971 file photograph. Hoffa was switching planes from San Francisco, and was returning to the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Hoffa was let out of prison to visit his wife, who had been hospitalized with heart problems. FBI teams on May 25, 2006 sifted by hand through dirt from a chest-deep hole in the ground in an intense search for the body of Jimmy Hoffa three decades after his disappearance. Hoffa was last seen outside a Detroit-area restaurant where he was to meet New Jersey Teamsters' boss Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a member of the Genovese crime family, and a local Mafia captain, Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone. Hoffa was declared dead in 1982, and numerous books about his life have pinned his disappearance on mobsters who murdered him because they did not want him interfering with their close ties to the union.

(REUTERS/Jerry Siskind)

 The site where 6 year old JonBenet Ramsey was killed in Boulder, Colorado, 1996.

(Photo by Karl Gehring/Liaison)

Black car in which rapper Tupac Shakur was fatally shot by unknown driveby assassins as he was riding w. friend Death Row records. pres. Marion Suge Knight, who survived shooting, behind police tape at crime scene (Photo by Malcolm Payne/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Police detectives released this composite drawing March 27 of the man they believe killed rap star Notorious B.I.G. in Los Angeles recently. The suspect, a black man in his early 20's with close-cropped hair, was wearing a bow-tie the night of the drive-by killing. Investigators have set up a toll free number for the public to call with any information about the suspect. NOTORIOUS BIG
Donna Norris poses next to a photo of her daughter Amber Hagerman, January 4, 2011, who was kidnapped 15 years ago while riding a bicycle near Norris mother's home in Arlington, Texas on January 13, 1996. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

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