PHOENIX – For 25 years, Joella Moore wondered what became of her brother after he ran away from his family’s home in Riverside, Calif., at age 16. She came to fear the worst but hoped he had started his life over somewhere.
Then came a call from Arizona: John Bryan Moore was John Doe 87-13337, buried in an indigent grave in Maricopa County after a June 18, 1987, crash on Interstate 10, six months after he disappeared.
“There’s relief now that we can finally take him home,” Moore said at a news conference Monday announcing her brother’s identification.
Using grant money from the National Institute of Justice, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner exhumed Moore’s body in 2011 for dental and anthropological exams and DNA testing by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. All the photographs and property from the case were reevaluated by criminologists.
Former DPS Detective Steve Leon said he contacted 37 agencies in the last year and a half trying to put together the missing pieces of this case.
“I’ve always said on these cases, the ones that I’ve solved, the answer is out there it just has to be found,” Leon said.
John Bryan Moore’s is one of 11 cases that have solved by the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner’s “Unidentified Team” since it began receiving grant money two years ago. There are 200 John Doe cases since 1970 that could be solved through the grant funding, according to Laura Fulginiti, forensic anthropologist with the office.
One reason Moore’s case remained unsolved for so long is that his missing person record was purged from the National Crime Information Center because he was found shortly after his disappearance in Los Angeles County, according to Leon.
Officials said Moore then went to Florida and later called his family to say he was in Louisiana and on his way home. He never arrived.
Leon said officers investigating the crash found a duffel bag with the name Brian Moore inside and a Florida address outside. Those didn’t match with any information in missing persons records, he said.
In August, Moore’s DNA was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a Department of Justice database. Leon searched data on juveniles who had been purged from the system, and out of 15,000 results was able to narrow it to John Bryan Moore.
“I was determined to work this case until every lead was exhausted,” Leon said.
DNA samples taken from Moore’s family proved a match.
Joella Moore, who joined her father, Joe, at the news conference, said the family is glad to have closure. They were planning a memorial and reburial for later this week.
“I can’t tell you at a family level how much this means to us,” she said.