Investigators hope to identify boy 96 years after his mysterious death

The gravestone for “Some Mother’s Boy,” an unidentified child who died in 1921

WKYT-TV

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- The body of a boy who died nearly a century ago in central Kentucky is being exhumed Friday in hopes of identifying him. 

On April 1, 1921, a teenage boy died when he was struck in the head by a train in Georgetown. At the time, officials tried to find the teenager’s family, but failed. He was buried in Georgetown Cemetery with the tombstone that simply reads, “Some Mother’s Boy.” 

Now, almost 96 years later, the boy’s body will be tested by the FBI in hopes of finding a DNA match. 

On Friday morning, crews began digging up his grave, CBS affiliate WKYT-TV reported. Scott County Coroner John Goble said it would take several hours to finish the exhumation.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the FBI are working to find the teenager’s identity. NamUs is a national centralized repository and resource for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. Emily Craig, who is in charge of special projects for NamUs, said modern technology might make possible what could not be done in the 1920s. 

The DNA will be matched through CODIS, or the Combined DNA Index System. CODIS allows federal, state and local forensic laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, Craig said. 

The boy was not a hobo, Craig said. He was well-kept, but likely not from the region. He had high-end clothes from Chicago and a watch engraved with initials. He is estimated to be an older teen. 

“This boy could be from anywhere,” said Craig, who retired from the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office in 2010. “He could have been a war orphan, he could have been a runaway.” 

ap-080215044134.jpg

Todd Matthews at the grave marker of “Some Mother’s Boy” in the Georgetown Cemetery in Georgetown, Ky., Friday, Feb. 15, 2008

Ed Reinke, AP

According to a front page Lexington Herald article, the boy died at the Ford Memorial hospital after being struck by the northbound train. No witnesses were found the night of the incident, according to the newspaper. 

Part of the reason the body is being exhumed now is that the federal funding for projects such as this is about to run out, Craig said. 

Interest in the case was also spurred when Todd Matthews, Craig’s supervisor, mentioned it. Matthews and Craig were involved with identifying the body of Barbara Ann Hackmann Taylor, dubbed the “Tent Girl.” Her body was discovered in 1968 on the side of the road wrapped in a tarp. She was buried in Georgetown Cemetery, but was later exhumed and identified in 1998. Taylor’s death was classified as a homicide. 

ap-080215044159.jpg

The grave marker of “Tent Girl” is shown in the Georgetown Cemetery in Georgetown, Ky., Friday, Feb. 15, 2008 

Ed Reinke, AP

Craig did not give an estimate when the boy might be identified. 

“It’s not a magic formula like you see on television,” Craig said. 

The teen might be one of the oldest unidentified people in NamUs’s database once it is entered Friday morning, Craig said. 

For locals who feel they may be related to the teenager, Craig said to contact Scott County Coroner John Goble to get forms so their DNA - which is collected through a cheek swab - can get into the system. For those outside of the region, Craig said to contact their local police.