Two teenage boys were murdered three decades ago and left in a vacant lot in Dorchester, their killer never found and their decomposed bodies never identified. It was a shocking crime — a double murder of two children — but the shooting barely registered. The Globe ran two stories in the back pages. The city buried the two boys in unmarked graves on a hillside at Fairview Cemetery. The killing faded into obscurity, a grim afterthought from a violence-racked period in Boston’s history.
Now, though, scientific advances make it worth the difficulty and expense of exhuming the bodies. Digging them up would allow for further testing of the remains, which could narrow down the age range, allow a forensic dentist to code their teeth to compare against dental records, and make possible the examination of the bodies for evidence of any previous injuries. It would also permit investigators to make a facial reconstruction of the older boy, thought to be between 15 and 17.
There’s no guarantee that exhuming the boys would lead to any breakthroughs. But just like better-known unidentified murder victims such as the Lady of the Dunes in Provincetown, the two boys deserve the best chance for justice that modern forensic science can provide.
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Police found the bodies Oct. 6, 1988, after a man collecting cans and bottles found them in the wooded area between Eldon Street and the railroad tracks. Both had been shot execution-style. Both were in relatively good health at the time of their deaths, with good teeth and warm clothes — signs, perhaps, that they had been well cared for. Near the bodies, police found a gunpowder-stained foam cylinder, which the killer had apparently used as a silencer.
Based on a tip, police circulated two names, Clayton and Hooker, and suggested that they may have had links to the Bronx. But how they ended up dead in Dorchester is anyone’s guess. According to subsequent reports, investigators have also considered the theory that the boys were foster children whose disappearance may not have been reported at the time. Mike McCarthy, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department, said police don’t consider the Bronx connection verified and continue to follow other leads.
Disturbing the graves of the city’s poorest should not be a routine action. An exhumation, cautions Carol Schweitzer, a forensic case specialist at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, is not simple. “You never know what you’re going to be faced with until you start digging,” she said. But two previous exhumations from the city’s potter’s field helped solve a murder case in Rutland and identify another unknown murder victim.
If exhuming the bodies leads to a face for the older victim, and the face leads to a name for the boys, it would provide closure to someone, somewhere, who surely misses them. And if it leads to the killer, the city could close the book on a haunting reminder of a darker time.
Produced by Elaina Natario, Laura Colarusso, Heather Hopp-Bruce, Alex Kingsbury, Jeremy D. Goodwin, and Mary Creane
Lead image by Alejo Porras