Nov 10, 2021

Killed in a 1961 Crash, ‘Unknown Boy’ Is Finally Identified

The mystery of a teenage hitchhiker, now identified as Daniel Paul Armantrout, was solved 60 years later because of advances in DNA technology and genealogy.

They called him “Unknown Boy.”

The blue-eyed hitchhiker with olive skin drowned when the car he was riding in crashed through the rail of a bridge and plunged into the Cahaba River in Bibb County, Ala., on March 27, 1961, according to an F.B.I. report. The driver survived the crash and offered a few details about the boy but not enough to identify him.

The boy had a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes on him, a Timex watch on his wrist and a Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception tied around his neck with cotton twine. He had been hitchhiking through Alabama, possibly en route to California, but not much else was known about him.

The local authorities tried for weeks to identify him and find his family. A viewing was held for him at a local funeral home, where many town leaders came to pay their respects. The child was buried in a coffin that local residents paid for, under a white marble headstone that read, “Unknown in Life but Recognized in Death.”

Last week, more than 60 years later, the mystery was solved, the product of advances in DNA technology and genealogy. The boy was 15-year-old Daniel Paul Armantrout, known as Danny, according to a local coroner and genealogists, and confirmed in an interview by a surviving brother.

You can read the rest of the story in the New York Times at

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