Victim of car accident in 1961 finally identified thanks to DNA

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CENTERVILLE, Ala. –A young hitchhiker who died in a 1961 car crash in Alabama and buried in a grave marked “UNKNOWN” has finally been identified through DNA testing, officials said.

Killed when a vehicle from which he had accepted a ride crashed and plunged into the Cahaba River, the hitchhiker had no identification and clues as to his identity were scarce. Members of the community raised funds for his burial and a gravestone was engraved with the date of the sinking: March 27, 1961.

The mystery of the person’s identity worried some, and a team unearthed the remains of the grave for samples to be tested in 2016 due to advances in testing and genealogical DNA identification. The body was then reburied.

“Our current coroner, CW West, was able to retrieve the fragments we had,” and they were sent to Identifinders International forensic genealogists, Bibb County Sheriff Jody Wade told WBRC-TV.

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West said researchers used DNA to confirm the remains were those of 15-year-old Daniel Paul “Danny” Armantrout, born December 28, 1945 in Miami, al.com reported.

The teenager’s parents, Alfred Valentine Armantrout and Virginia Leocadie Berner, divorced when Danny was young and Berner remarried another man. A team has tracked down a cousin and brother who believe Danny was attempting to hitchhike in California to enlist in the military when he was picked up in Alabama and killed in the crash.

The brother was “very emotional” hearing what happened to Danny, West said. He and his wife plan to travel to Alabama.

“He wants to go up and have a memorial service and meet some of the people who worked behind the scenes to locate his brother,” West said.

Members of the community will decide whether to add Armantrout’s name to the headstone of his grave.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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