It took more than 40 years, but New Jersey police are finally able to partially explain what happened to a teenaged orphan who disappeared on a camping trip.
Steven Soden and a 12-year-old vanished in a wooded area of the Bass River State Forest in 1972, not far from where other youngsters from their orphanage had camped for the night. Family members had wondered if Soden died at the hands of notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy halfway across the country in Chicago.
DNA tests determined that none of the eight sets of unidentified remains of Gacy's victims matched Soden's genetic makeup. But when run through a larger database of unknown remains, there was a match with bones found in 2000 not far from where Soden was last seen decades earlier, according to the New Jersey State Police.
"We always had hopes that we'd somehow find him alive," Soden's 73-year-old half-brother Ron Soden told WNBC.
Ron Soden and his sisters gave DNA samples to officials in Chicago who last year were trying to ID eight nameless young men and boys slain by Gacy.
Lab technicians analyzing the family DNA ruled out Steven Soden as a victim, according to state police in New Jersey. But when plugged into a national database, researchers at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification realized that the four bones found by an off-duty state trooper came from Steven Soden.
The Soden children grew up in Paterson, a blue-collar town west of New York City. Ron Soden told the Associated Press that while he served in the Army in Vietnam, his mother put Steven and a younger sister April in an orphanage.
April claimed that Steven told her he was going to run away with a friend. Days later, he and 12-year-old Donald Caldwell went missing.
There was a possibility in the minds of his siblings that he went to Chicago, where his biological father lived. That's why some suspected that Gacy might have had something to do with the orphan's disappearance, the Star-Ledger reported
Authorities are now trying to find out what happened to Caldwell and will reportedly comb the area where Soden's bones were found.