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Boy found dead on California street in 1978 is identified through DNA: "Identifying his killer is the next step"

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Police hope genealogy sites will help solve more cold cases 02:45

A teen boy found dead on a Southern California street 44 years ago has been identified as runaway whose disappearance was never reported, police said.

The body was discovered in a residential neighborhood of Long Beach on June 3, 1978. Investigators were unable to identify the teen and he was dubbed "John Doe 1978," the Long Beach Police Department said in a statement Wednesday. The homicide case eventually went cold.

Police said recent advances in DNA technology allowed authorities to finally identify the boy as Kenneth Nevada Williams, who was 15 years old when he ran away from his home in La Puente, east of Los Angeles, in 1978.

"Williams was never reported missing. Homicide detectives were successfully able to locate and contact Williams' family members and subsequently confirm his identity," the police statement said.

No cause of death was given.

Donald Alway, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's LA Field Office, said his agency and police have resumed investigating the teen's death.

"Justice delayed doesn't have to be justice denied in this case. Kenneth Nevada Williams is now a known victim and identifying his killer is the next step in solving this case," Alway said in a statement.

The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Police provided school records that showed Williams last attended Sierra Vista Middle School in 1977 and was enrolled in Fairgrove Academy on Oct.18, 1977. His last attended school day was on Oct. 27, 1977.

"Without the assistance of investigative genealogy, Kenneth Williams may have never been identified, however, his story is far from over. The person(s) responsible for his murder are still outstanding and must be identified to be held accountable for their crimes so that Kenneth Williams and his family will get the justice they have long deserved," the Long Beach Police Department said.

Anyone with information about the 1978 murder or Williams' whereabouts from Oct. 27, 1977, to June 3, 1978, is asked to contact the LBPD Homicide Detail, Missing Persons Section at (562) 570-7246.

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