NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. – A Michigan man seeking his long-lost mother has discovered she was killed in 1982 when her body was found miles off Florida's Gulf coast.
Jeff Earley of Grand Blanc, Mich., had his wife search the Internet for information about his mother. What Earley and his wife discovered cracked the case and led to a fresh investigation, said Pasco County sheriff Chris Nocco.
"We got the closure that we needed," Earley told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Twenty-nine years is a long time. When she left I was only 9 years old. You learn to cope with it."
Two years ago, Julie Earley checked a website listing unidentified bodies. The information she submitted about Amy Rose Hurst matched a woman found in September 1982 in the Gulf of Mexico. The body was found 27 miles offshore, had head trauma and was wrapped in an Afghan blanket. Jeff Earley remembered a similar blanket from his childhood.
Hurst's family had reported the 29-year-old missing in August of 1982 but that case wasn't linked to the body until the Earleys began searching on the Internet.
The Earleys contacted Florida officials and the results of a complex DNA test showed this month that the body was Hurst's, authorities said.
"Due to his persistency and his love for his mother, he was able to put some pieces together," Nocco said at a news conference last week. "Because of that, we are able to pursue this case even further."
Nocco did not elaborate further on the case and whether investigators had any leads to possible suspects or the circumstances of the killing.
A detective from Pasco County was in Michigan this week interviewing family members, Jeff Earley said. The family expects to have his mother's remains brought back to Michigan sometime this week.
"Our next step is we want a conviction. We want to know what happened," he said.