13-year-old Teala Patricia Thompson left her Pittsburgh home on a September day in 1967, and never returned. Her family reported her as missing, but Pittsburgh police never connected her disappearance with the case of a girl found in a landfill in Salem Township, Pa., that same year.
Teala Thompson's sister, Mary, was only 4 when Teala went missing. Mary remembers her mother cautioning her when the family moved to Greensburg, PA,. in the mid-1990s.
“She told me to be careful in Greensburg because I had a sister that was murdered up there,” Thompson told The Washington Post.
Teala Thompson was finally identified as the girl whose lifeless body was dumped in the trash and later discovered in a landfill.
The unidentified body was buried by the city in an unmarked cemetery in potter's field in 1967.
Pennsylvania State trooper Brian Gross is credited with reopening the decades old cold case and getting a court order to exhume the body in the potter's grave.
A dental chart done on the body in the 1960s matched the skeletal remains that was exhumed from the potter's grave.
A police artist created an age-progression photo of how the girl would likely look today.
Mary Thompson saw the age-progression photo on the news and immediately called Gross. “It’s my sister,” she told him.
Investigators obtained Mary's DNA and the DNA of other family members. A lab at the University of North Texas that specializes in missing children cases made the positive match.
State Trooper Gross personally delivered the news to Mary Thompson.
The 52-year-old mother-of-4 said she had waited all her life for the news.
“We’re grateful, but we’re still hurting,” she said. “We’re happy, but we’re hurting.”
Their mother died never knowing what happened to her daughter, who would have turned 62 this year.
Gross said the case is not closed because Teala's murderer is still out there.
Mary plans to give the remains to her older sister Jerry Denson of Saylorsburg, PA.
Denson and Teala were closer in age and they were best friends.
The family plans to give Teala a proper burial.
“We just want to know what happened to her,” Mary Thompson said. “How did she die?”
Thanks to loyal reader Travis C. for the tip.