DNA Helps Identify Body Found Nearly 50 Years Ago As Florida Teen

Susan Poole
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News & Politics
Jessica Powers

Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies made a gruesome discovery in 1974 when they stumbled upon human bones tied up in the mangroves in an area known as Burnt Bridges off Florida’s A1A highway.

For almost 50 years, the victim’s identity remained a mystery. But now, officials have some answers and they're looking for the public's help in finally putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together.

Susan Poole Disappeared Around Christmas In 1972 When She was 15 Years Old

The rendering of the woman.
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The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office recently announced that thanks to the advancements in technology, the woman found tied up has now been identified as Susan Poole.

Susan Poole's mother is still alive today and finally knows what happened to her daughter, who went missing in Broward County just before Christmas in 1972, when she was 15 years old.


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Police Worked With Experts To Analyze DNA And Genealogy

Det. William Springer discusses the case.
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Det. William Springer said in a press conference that the sheriff’s office identified the young girl using a new technology known as genetic genealogy and a company that has experience analyzing old DNA.

Experts analyze DNA and complex family trees to basically narrow people down and then identify who they are based on the findings.

A Former Police Officer Who Served Time For Killing Young Women Identified As Main Suspect

The suspect Gerard Schaefer
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Police said this week that they believe Susan was murdered by a notoriously gruesome serial killer named Gerard Schaefer, a former police officer who was known to spend time near where Susan lived.

Gerard Schaefer Was Known To Spend Time Near The Area Where Susan Poole Went Missing

The suspect Gerard Schaefer.
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Susan at the time of her disappearance was living in a trailer park with her family in Broward County. She often stayed with a friend in Wilton Manors, which is where Schaefer was once a police officer, Springer said.

Susan had dropped out of school and sometimes hitchhiked, but just before Christmas, she disappeared. She left clothes and her pocketbook behind at a friend’s house in Wilton Manors, which her family believed was odd, so they reported her missing.

Schaefer had served jail time after pleading guilty to picking up two teenage girls, bringing them to a wooded area, tying nooses around their necks, and threatening them with sexual acts.

Schaefer was out on bail at the time of Susan's disappearance, and Springer said during the press conference that Susan's being “tied up in the mangroves” also fit Schaefer’s style, saying his "M.O. was to pick up young girls hitchhiking."

Gerard Schaefer Was Murdered In Prison In 1995 While Serving Two Life Sentences For Murder

He died in prison.
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Schaefer was convicted in 1973 of killing two teenage Broward County girls. He was sentenced to two life terms but was killed in December 1995 when a fellow inmate stabbed him.

While he never admitted to any other murders, Schaefer was the prime suspect in dozens of other killings. Police found writings detailing the torture, sexual abuse, and killing of women when they raided Schaefer's house, as well as belongings of five missing or dead women, TCPalm reported.

While police are confident they know who is responsible for killing Susan, Det. Springer is looking to speak to several of her friends: Julie Hunt, Michelle Williamson, and Greg Anderson.

Springer said these people may be able to help piece together Susan's final days, or many have other details that will help them finally put her case to rest after nearly five decades.

"These three could help us find the missing piece and give her family closure," police wrote in a statement. "Anyone with information please reach out to Det. Springer or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-TIPS."