A Florida teenager whose skeletal remains were found tied to a tree in 1974 was identified and may have been the victim of a serial killer, authorities said.
The remains were determined to be those of Susan Gale Poole, 15, after a forensic DNA firm developed a profile from her remains and identified possible relatives, detective Bill Springer of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office told reporters last week.
Springer said the likeliest suspect was Gerard Schaefer, a former police officer and sheriff's deputy convicted in 1973 of killing two teenage girls in the area where Poole lived.
Schaefer was implicated in the deaths of more than two-dozen others, the Associated Press reported. He was fatally stabbed by another inmate in 1995.
Poole's family reported her missing before Christmas in 1972, Springer said. At the time of her disappearance she was living in a trailer park with her family near Fort Lauderdale and staying with a friend in Wilton Manors.
Springer said she had dropped out of high school and was previously reported as a runaway.
Schaefer was known to pick up hitchhikers — something else Poole did — and he was a police officer in Wilton Manors, Springer said.
"Everything kind of fits that way but I don't have any physical evidence to link him to it," he said.
The teen's body was found on a coastal state road in June 1974, roughly a year-and-a-half after she vanished. Her remains were tied to a mangrove tree with wire, Springer said.
An anthropologist who examined her found no trauma to her body, Springer said.
Earlier efforts to identify her remains, including adding her DNA to a national database in 2015, failed, Springer said. The forensic DNA firm, Othram, reached out to the sheriff's office and said it had "great success" identifying degraded DNA.
Springer now hopes to reconstruct the last weeks of her life through friends she may have confided in to potentially link her killing to Schaefer. He provided three names — Julie Hunt, Michelle Williamson and Greg Anderson — and asked that they contact the sheriff's office.