A team of DNA forensic science and genealogical experts has identified the unknown 15 year old boy who died in a car crash near River Bend [Bibb County, AL] in early 1961. The identification of this unknown person is a 60 year old Bibb County, Alabama mystery and is now said to represent the oldest case from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ever solved by forensic genealogy.
The Centreville Press has followed this story over six decades. The original story was covered in 1961 by James W. Oakley, Jr., a young reporter at the time and a member of the Oakley family with long ties to the Centreville Press publication. Oakley kept the story alive over the years with follow-up news stories, missing person flyers he published, and by providing information to law enforcement agencies and news organizations in efforts to solve his identity and locate family.
The Centreville and Bibb County community embraced this “story of a lost child” over the years as many people and public officials paid for the funeral, never closed the file, and have worked to resolve the long standing mystery of his identity.
Now, more than sixty years after his death, the unknown hitchhiker and automobile accident victim has been identified as Daniel Paul “Danny” Armantrout, born December 28, 1945 in Miami, FL. His father was Alfred Valentine Armantrout who died in 1973 in Georgia. His mother was Virginia Leocadie Berner, born in 1921 in New Jersey and died in 2011 in Florida. His surviving biological sibling has been identified and contacted by the team that did the exhaustive research.
The organization that conducted the research included forensic genealogist Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, Allison Peacock, and Misty Gillis of Identifinders International based in Fountain Valley, CA. The forensic DNA and geneaology research was funded by the Gray Hughes Investigates organization and public donations. The initial announcement of the identification was made on October 30, 2021 on a Gray Hughes Youtube program.
The genetic research team worked directly with Bibb County Coroner C.W. West for about a year on the project. Bibb County Sheriff Jody Wade, and the original 1961 news reporter Jim Oakley Jr. of the Centreville Press, contributed independently to the impressive detective work and confirming research that eventually led to the identification of this mystery young person.
A local news conference and public announcement took place via a Zoom Conference call on Monday, November 1 at 2:00 p.m. hosted by the Centreville Press news team. The video may be viewed at the link below.
This article has been updated to include the edited Youtube video link and donation information.
Danny’s surviving brother Donald is planning a trip to Bibb County, Alabama and the community plans a funeral ceremony for December 28, 2021. A benevolent fund has been established to defray the costs of a permanent headstone for Danny’s final resting place and to cover expenses associated with the identification of Danny Armantrout. Raised funds may also be contributed to the missing persons efforts of the experts who identified Danny, including the Gray Hughes organization and Identifinders International.
During this investigation it was confirmed that Danny Armantrout had 2 siblings, Donald and David. David also left home in 1961 and has never been located. Efforts are still ongoing to locate the still missing sibling. His name is David Alfred Armantrout and he has also may have been known as David Alfred Hamilton.
The Centreville Historic Preservation Commission, a local non-profit organization, has agreed to accept donations for this purpose and manage the benevolent fund. Any reader desiring to contribute to this effort may direct a donation labeled “Danny’s Fund” to the Centreville Historic Preservation Commission at the address below.
PDF page 19 has an FBI publication from 1961 which has details from the case that are interesting. https://leb.fbi.gov/file-repository/archives/december-1961.pdf/view
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