The remains of an unidentified man buried in a Tempe cemetery 25 years ago are that of a youth who went missing from Riverside, CA, authorities said.
The Medical Examiner's Office said Monday the body has been identified as John Bryan Moore.
On June 18, 1987, two men were driving across Arizona on their way to California from Florida when the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed in the westbound lanes of Interstate 10 near Tonopah. Moore, who was driving, had hitched a ride. He was buried at Tempe Buttes Cemetery as a John Doe (87-1337), the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.
On Feb. 1, 2011, the remains were exhumed and complete digital dental radiographs and an anthropology examination were done. Samples of bone and teeth were collected and all of the property in the casket was photographed. The analysis determined that the victim was between 15 to 17 years old and about 5'10" tall.
From 2011 through August 2012, John Doe was profiled in numerous media stories and law enforcement agencies in Arizona, California and Florida were notified. In all, 37 agencies were contacted during the investigation. Moore's father, sister and mother gave investigators DNA samples.
In August, detectives made contact with an organization dedicated to missing and deceased persons across the U.S. Two people with the organization were able to perform an offline search of juveniles who had been purged from the system.
In the course of the search, they isolated more than 15,000 people who matched the age, ancestry and sex of the John Doe. One of those was John Bryan Moore.
The man's family was contacted and through photographs, the postmortem sketch, descriptions of the personal effects in the casket and a tattoo on the victim's body, they affirmed that the John Doe was their missing person. DNA samples were also consistent.
Moore traveled across the country to Florida, making last contact with his sister when he was in Louisiana before he was killed in Arizona.
Moore's sister, Joella, described the pain the family has felt at a news briefing Monday.
"For 24 years, you have the hope that he just took off at a young age and was afraid to come back," she said. "There's the hope that he was able to start his life. And then you get the reality he's a teenage runaway and the odds of them making it without being abducted are very small."
Moore's father, Joe, fought back tears as he thanked law enforcement personnel who helped in the case.
"These people are unreal," he said. "Without them, there would never have been closure."
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