By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
July 31, 1973, was the last time Mary Raskin knew exactly where her son Joseph “Joey” Norman Spears was at.
He was only 17 years old when he escaped from the Harrison County Youth Detention Center in Mississippi. Since then it was as if the earth had swallowed him up, and in a way it had.
Less than a month later, on August 23, 1973, an unknown young man was hit and killed by a vehicle as he was crossing the Gulf Freeway in Texas City, Texas. He didn’t have any form of identification; he was shirtless and wearing a pair of jeans.
The county medical examiner, determined that he was 17 to 18 years of age. He had dark, shoulder length hair, blue eyes, a mustache and goatee and had a circular scar on one of his wrists.
By September 21, 1973, the body remained unclaimed, and in an effort to identify him they ran a short story describing him, and that the body would be kept for two more weeks before it would be buried in an unknown cemetery. The story included a touched up picture of the young man, however no one came forward to give him a name.
The Texas City community donated a funeral service, casket and a grave at the Hayes Grace memorial Park in Hitchcock, Texas, and there he laid unknown and undisturbed, until an employee of the cemetery, Chelsea Davidson started efforts to identify the remains of this young man and bring peace to his family.
She combed through different databases that provided information on missing persons but with no success, until she came across information about Spears that had been entered in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) in 2013, by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department after a family member had contacted them to get an update on the missing person’s report issued for Joey Spears. The description of Joseph Spears matched those of the John Doe buried in 1973, including the scars on his wrist.
Davidson contacted Kristi Johnson with the sheriff’s dept. who was assigned to the cold case, and by February 2016, the body was exhumed, with the hope of identifying the body via a DNA sample.
Despite the body being very well preserved since he had been buried in a sealed vault, the Galveston medical examiner’s office was unable to get a proper DNA sample. The investigators in Texas and Mississippi compared the facts each had about this young man, and eventually turned to his mother, Mary Raskin to identify if this was indeed her son’s remains, which she confirmed after viewing pictures taken during his autopsy.
Joey Spears belonged to a military family, and they moved where their father’s career in the U.S. Navy took him.
On August 19, 2016 his body was released to a funeral home in Texas which would cremate the remains and send it to his family in California.
Sources - Abilene Reporter News, Galveston Daily News
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