Local News

Investigating officer keeps evidence by desk amid new push to solve Orange County cold case

Posted July 11, 2018 5:56 p.m. EDT
Updated July 11, 2018 9:05 p.m. EDT

— There is a new push to solve a cold case from 20 years ago, in which an unidentified boy’s body was found on the side of the road in Mebane.

Thanks to new technology, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released a new facial reconstruction of the boy Tuesday.

Investigator Tim Horne has been investigating the case since day one and he keeps a box of evidence in his office, right by his desk.

Inside the box are photos of the scene, which include money found inside the boy’s pocket and even maggots.

On Sept. 25, 1998, skeletal remains of the unidentified boy were found in Mebane. He was found in heavy brush near a billboard sign along Industrial Drive, which is a service road adjacent to the westbound lanes of Interstate 85 and Interstate 40.

"It was a hot, hot day. Still felt like summertime weather," Horne said.

The child had been dead at this location for several months. The body was so badly decomposed that officers didn't know at first if it was a boy or girl.

"We realized it was going to be an uphill battle," Horne said.

The remains were identified as a male, believed to be 9 to 12 years old. His race is Caucasian or Hispanic. He stood approximately 4’11” tall and had straight brown hair. The child was found wearing khaki shorts, socks and black sneakers. About $50 in cash was found inside his pocket.

"Insects, beetles, maggots, trying to determine how long the child had been there early on," Horne said. "We also recently sent the money that was found in his pocked to the Secret Service."

Horne said it is believed the boy was strangled.

Testing revealed that the boy was likely not from North Carolina but from the southeast U.S., with the highest potential from Alabama and Georgia. Additional DNA testing will be conducted on the remains soon, authorities said.

“In a homicide investigation, you have to identify the victim and then spiral outwards, because you’re usually killed by someone you know, but we’re stuck on go because we weren’t able to identify the little boy.”

Following the release of the new rendering on Tuesday, Horne said he received a call from someone who said he thinks the unidentified boy may be his son, but it is too soon to know if that’s the case.