39-year search for teen ends in grave 765 miles from home

When 15-year-old Andrew 'Drew' Jackson Greer Jr. was listed as missing from Clayton, Michigan, in 1979, rumors circulated he had been killed — even though there was never any proof.

The case eventually went cold. In the years that followed, missing person flyers featuring the teen — forever 15 — seemed more haunting than beneficial.

This week, nearly 40 years after Greer was reported missing, authorities in Michigan say the lingering mystery has been solved with the discovery of the teenager’s remains some 765 miles from where he was last seen alive.

For James Bowman, Greer’s half-brother, the news means his family can stop waiting and wondering and finally lay Greer to rest.

“It’s a bittersweet ... ending,” Bowman told The Detroit News. “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.”

Drew Greer's school yearbook photo.

In the bizarre missing person case of Drew Greer, not much made sense. The last time anyone in Clayton saw the teenager was on Feb. 12, 1979. He’d reportedly been suspended from Addison High School that day after he was caught with a pocketknife.  

At about 5 p.m., a Michigan State Police trooper was dispatched to Greer’s mother’s house. According to the police report, Greer’s mother told the trooper her son did not come home from school and may have run away.

“The last time that Andrew was confirmed as [having] been seen was leaving Addison High School in Addison,” reads a synopsis of the case by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems, or NamUs.

Greer’s friend, Scott Szeve, told The Daily Telegram of nearby Adrian, Michigan, that he’d seen Greer on the day the teen disappeared. According to Szeve, Greer wasn’t looking forward to going home and facing the consequences from his suspension. Instead, the two hung out at a “fort in the woods.” Greer eventually left and “that was the last time I ever saw him,” Szeve said.

Investigators reportedly conducted extensive interviews in the case. Rumors surrounding the teen’s disappearance circulated, including one in which he’d been killed and was buried near a barn. However, no factual evidence as to the teen’s whereabouts surfaced. The case baffled detectives and was eventually relegated to the filing cabinet.

Another decade passed without answers

In April 2000, Greer’s father asked investigators to reopen the case. According to police, Greer’s father was “very ill with cancer, and is desperate to find some closure.”

A detective re-examined the file and additional interviews were conducted, but as was the case in 1979, the investigation went nowhere and another decade passed without answers.

In December 2014, this time at the request of Greer’s half-brother, the case was again reopened. The investigator assigned to it, Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Larry Rothman, discovered Greer had never been entered into any of the national missing person databases. He remedied the issue and collected DNA from family members for comparison to unidentified remains, the Daily Telegram reported.

Greer’s father died in 2015 and his mother passed in 2017 — both without knowing the fate of their son.

According to The Telegraph, Rothman investigated the case until December 2017. Prior to putting it down, he said a prayer.

“Asking God, if you want this solved, you’re going to have to do it because I’ve done everything I could do,” he told The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, Anthony Strickland, a retired sheriff’s deputy in Bibb County, Georgia, was wondering about a cold case he’d been always been troubled by — the death of a teenage hitchhiker on Valentine’s Day, 1979.

An undated photo of Drew Greer circulated by investigators.

According to the Georgia police, an unknown teenager was attempting to cross Interstate 75 near Macon when he was struck and killed by a semi. The teen was not carrying identification. Authorities said he’d been carrying more than two-dozen candy bars and a half-dozen pieces of taffy.

Police received a lead from a man who claimed he’d given the teen a ride earlier that day. The man reportedly told police the teen said his name was Drew Greer. But, as promising as the lead was, the name meant nothing to authorities in Georgia. Investigators were unable to verify the tip and there was no match for the unidentified teen’s fingerprints in the national database.

Strickland told The Telegraph he was a young deputy in the Spring of 1979, when he stood witness to the teen’s body being lowered into an unmarked grave.

The deputy, who retired in 2000, never forgot about the teen and would sometimes look to the Internet for clues. He was doing that earlier this year when he came across a website containing the names and information for runaways from across the country. While looking through cases that had been reported in February 1979, he saw the name of a suspected runaway from Michigan, Andrew Greer.

“I looked at a map and I could see easily how he could have made it to 75,” Strickland told The Telegraph.

According to The Telegraph, Strickland contacted Rothman on Feb. 12, 39 years to the day the teen disappeared.

'It will mean closure for the rest of the family'

In April, Rothman and Strickland stood together by the pauper’s grave as the casked containing the unidentified teenager’s remains was raised from the ground. Later that day, the remains were transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab. A DNA sample was taken there and sent to the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas for comparison.

“Based on the evidence and testimonies [of witnesses], I am hoping for a miracle,” Bowman told The Daily Telegram. “It will mean closure for the rest of the family.”

That “miracle” came on Tuesday, when Michigan State Police were notified by the lab in Texas that DNA taken from the remains in Georgia was a match to Drew Greer. Authorities said they suspect Greer was killed while making his way from Michigan to Florida, where his father was living.

Arrangements are now being made to bring Greer’s body back to Michigan.

Bowman, who was 4 years old when his half-brother disappeared, is planning a memorial service. While he’s happy to finally have closure, he wishes his mother was still alive to hear the long-awaited news, according to The Detroit News. 

“Hopefully, she knows the truth,” Bowman said.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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