Cold Case: Man Charged In 1974 Death Of Childhood Friend

The 1974 death of a Pennsylvania boy has finally been solved thanks to modern technology, leading to the arrest of Joseph Leos for killing his childhood friend.

John David Watson, Jr. was found on a neighbor’s property with a bullet in the back of his head in May of 1974 after riding his bike to a motel to buy cigarettes for his mother. The 14-year-old’s murder has never been solved.

According to ABC News, Fayette County police interviewed then-17-year-old Joseph Leos and seized the blue coat he was wearing at the time, but even though they suspected he had killed Watson, they could never prove it – until now.

The murder went into cold case files for lack of evidence but was reopened in 2009. New forensic testing on the coat taken from Leos showed gunpowder residue, although he never mentioned firing a gun to the police at the time of the interview. Police say they also recovered a.22-caliber rifle, but tests to match the gun to Watson’s murder have been inconclusive.

Leos, now 58, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with his childhood friend’s death.

Joseph Leos arrested for the death of his childhood friend

According to the police records, Watson had left home about 9 p.m. the evening of the murder. He went to a motel, where he purchased the cigarettes and played pinball for a while. Witnesses interviewed after his death reported seeing him riding his bike home later in the evening.

Watson’s brother, Tom, who was 24-years-old at the time, told TribLive News that when John didn’t return home, he and several others searched for him throughout the night. He found his brother about 6 a.m. the next morning, lying in a neighbor’s yard.

Tom said when he hugged his brother’s body, it was dry – despite the fact that it had been raining during the night before. He also saw drag marks that ran about 50 feet from the home where Leos was staying with his grandmother.

“I just knew it was Joe,” Tom said. “That morning of his (Watson’s) death, he (Leos) was standing there, and the things he said made me think he did it.”

Police believe that Leo’s shot his friend after an altercation.

Watson’s brother says that even after 40 years, he has never given up hope that his family would see justice, and he has kept in touch with investigators. Last week, he was told that they were close to an arrest.

And on Wednesday, shortly after Leos was arrested, Watson finally got the call saying his brother’s killer had been taken into custody.

“(John) can rest in peace, and now we have our chance in court,” Tom said. “I talked with the district attorney. It’s in their ballpark now.”

The Inquisitr reported another cold case that finally went to trial recently, that of Etan Patz, the case which inspired missing children’s photos being placed on milk cartons in the 1980s.

[Photos via Scott Olson/Getty Images and ABC News]