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Nearly 40 years later, DNA confirmed that a body buried in Georgia is a missing runaway boy from Michigan, police say. 

Michigan State Police confirmed on Tuesday that the body of a "John Doe," who was buried in a pauper's grave in Macon, Georgia, has been identified as missing 15-year-old Andrew Jackson Greer from Addison, Michigan. 

On Feb. 12, 1979, Greer left Addison High School and didn't return home. He was last seen in Clayton County, police said. The case turned cold after early investigations by Michigan State Police in 1979 and the Lenawee County Sheriff's Department in 2000. 

The case was re-opened in 2014 with developments in technology and resources. In December 2017, a retired Bibb County Sheriff's deputy made the connection between the description of the unidentified body and Greer. He notified Michigan State Police detectives, who traveled to Georgia in April to exhume the body, MSP said. 

A DNA sample was taken from the body at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and sent to the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas for comparison. The results concluded that it was 1.9 trillion times more likely than not that the DNA from “John Doe” was that of Greer. MSP said taken together, the DNA results and police reports conclude they are the same.

Detectives determined that Greer, who had run away from home on Feb. 12, 1979, was killed two days later when he was struck by a semi-trailer while hitchhiking down Interstate 75 near Macon, Georgia.  

"Greer’s identity has been a mystery to Georgia authorities until now, and the Michigan State Police had no information on his whereabouts until the connection was made in December 2017," according to a statement from police. 

Police said arrangements are being made to bring the body back to Michigan.

"It's a bittersweet ... ending," said James Bowman, Greer's half-brother, who contacted a reporter at the Daily Telegram of Adrian in 2014 in an effort to restart the case that had gone cold by 2000. "Of course, as a family we all wanted him to be alive. ... But today we get the closure it's officially him and he's been found."

Bowman, who now lives in San Marcos, Texas, said he wishes their mother was alive for the confirmation. She died last year and "dealt with the agony of wanting to know what happened," he said.

"It was my trying to help my mom find that answer that led us to this place," Bowman said. "Hopefully, she knows the truth today."

Bowman, who was 4 years old when Greer disappeared, said the family plans to have the remains cremated, bring them to Michigan for a memorial service and "put him to rest."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

The Associated Press contributed

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