Teen missing for 43 years finally identified thanks to cemetery worker

GULFPORT, Miss. -- A Mississippi resident missing for 43 years has been positively identified as a teenager killed in a 1973 traffic accident, according to The Sun Herald.

Mary Raskin, mother of missing teen Joseph “Joey” Norman Spears, identified her son by looking at photos of the person involved in the 1973 accident, investigators told the paper.

Spears escaped from a youth detention center on July 31, 1973. He died after he was struck by a vehicle while crossing a freeway in Texas City, Texas, according to investigators.

Chelsea Davidson, an employee at Hayes Grace Memorial Park in Hitchcock, Texas, started the quest of trying to identify the unidentified man buried at the cemetery. After she identified Spears as a possible match, the body was exhumed. A scar from a cigarette burn on Spears' wrist also helped authorities make the identification.

The body was released on Friday to a funeral home for cremation and the remains will be sent to Burns' family in California, according to the paper.

“I just think it’s amazing that she had the courage to look into the unidentified remains to possibly find out who it was,” Harrison County Sheriff’s Investigator Kristi Johnson told the paper. “Still, there are a lot of unidentified remains all over the country. If every cemetery had an employee like Chelsea, we would be able to solve a lot more cases.”