DNA testing closes case of missing Virginia teen 30 years later

A decades-old mystery was finally solved Wednesday in Virginia after remains that were found by fishermen 30 years ago were identified.

Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin Hall announced during a news conference that the bones found along the Jackson River were those of Michael Perdue. Authorities believe Perdue drowned in May 1985 while fleeing a Covington gas station he or a friend may have firebombed.

Investigators thought the remains were Perdue’s, but weren’t sure until they tracked down Wally Perdue in Michigan for a DNA test.

“It’s been hard these 30 years, not knowing if he was going to come walking in the door or not,” said Perdue’s sister, Sandra Miller, who attended the press conference.

According to the Roanoke Times, the Perdue brothers suffered some hardships early in their life. Their father abandoned them at a young age and their mother died of a brain hemorrhage shortly thereafter.

After one brother died in a house fire, Michael and Wally were sent to live with their grandmother and it was soon after that they began getting in trouble with the law. Police believe Michael was running away after firebombing a gas station. One accomplice was arrested in that incident.

“Authorities believe Michael was with his friend at the time of the firebomb, ran from the scene and tried to swim across the river to get away but didn’t make it and drowned,” the sheriff’s office had said in a review.

Michael Perdue’s missing persons case was the only one Covington had to deal with. As family members began to move out of the area, the case remained in limbo until federal authorities got involved and reopened it.

According to the newspaper, the forensic authorities were able to take DNA from Michael’s remains and match it with a family member. Once they found Wally, authorities were able to confirm the identity of the remains.

Michael Perdue will be returned to his family in Michigan and will be buried in Ann Arbor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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