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Skeletal remains found in 1974 identified as missing teen, possible victim of serial killer

Texas DNA lab uses genealogy technology to identify Susan Poole, officials say
Susan Poole.jpg
Posted at 10:51 AM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 12:51:21-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — After nearly five decades, detectives in Florida announced they've identified a teen girl whose skeletal remains were found tied to a tree in 1974.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Detective Bill Springer said Susan Poole, who was born in 1957, may have been the victim of a serial killer.

Poole's remains were discovered in June of 1974 in the mangroves in an area known as "Burnt Bridges." According to Springer, Poole had vanished two years prior, just before Christmas of 1972.

"Nobody knew where she went," Springer said. "Her clothes, pocketbook were still at an apartment that she was staying at."

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Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office identifies skeletal remains found in 1974

Late in 2021, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office sent the unidentified remains to Othram, a Texas-based forensics DNA lab that builds DNA profiles using genealogy.

The lab identified the deceased as Poole and helped investigators locate her parents and siblings. The family had lived in a Broward County trailer park at the time of Poole's disappearance.

"The family was happy to know what happened. It's been a long time waiting to see what happened to their sister," Springer said.

Springer said Poole may have been the victim of serial killer Gerard Schaefer, a former Wilton Manors police officer and Martin County deputy who was convicted in 1973 of murdering two girls.

"Gerard Schaefer is the best suspect due to the location, the fact that she was in the mangroves, that she was tied up in the mangroves. He was active back then," Springer said.

Wilton Manors Police Department applicant photo of Gerard Schaefer, Sept. 16, 1970.jpg
Wilton Manors Police Department applicant photo of Gerard Schaefer, Sept. 16, 1970.

Schaefer, who investigators said preyed on young girls who were hitchhiking, was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate in Florida State Prison in the mid-90s.

Springer on Thursday said Othram's genealogy technology is a "great investigative technique" and the sheriff's office wants to use it on other unsolved cases.

The sheriff's office is hoping to locate and speak with three of Poole's friends — Julie Hunt, Michelle Williamson and Greg Anderson — to learn more about what may have happened to her.

Anyone with information that can help investigators is asked to call the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

This story was first reported by Matt Papaycik at WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.