For decades, Newark investigators waded through woods and tick-infested fields, scoured mental wards and prisons, merchant ships, and military records. They checked unidentified bodies in the morgue and double-checked the names of victims from the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, and the serial killings of black children in Atlanta, says the Newark Star-Ledger. Clues, tips, and sometimes a sense of desperation led them to carnivals and circuses, psychics, and a ouija board operator – all to solve the most enduring mystery in Newark's long history: What happened to five teenaged boys when they vanished into the summer twilight on Aug. 20, 1978?
The key to the arrest, nearly 32 years later, of Lee Evans, 56, and his cousin, Philander Hampton, 53, on charges of murder and arson on Monday, came down to this: The alleged killers never left town. No DNA evidence, no sophisticated, CSI-type forensics broke the case. Just shoe leather and persistence. Detectives rummaged through 32-year-old police reports, worked through dusty boxes stored in warehouses and month after month pressured Hampton in an effort to get him to disclose the big secret.