Palm Beach County authorities identify 1980s murder victims using DNA

Palm Beach County authorities identify 1980s murder victims using DNA

Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County is offering a $3,000 reward for information related to the murder of Joseph W. Newman.


WEST PALM BEACH — Authorities have identified a murder victim whose body was found more than four decades ago in rural Palm Beach County. They next hope to find his killer.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s officials say Joseph W. Newman disappeared in the early 1980s while traveling from Toms River, New Jersey, to Florida. A man searching for aluminum cans along the New River Canal found his skeletal remains 18 miles south of South Bay on February 3, 1984.

According to investigators, the man was handcuffed and left between the guardrail and the canal about 30 feet from U.S. 27. The man was wearing pants, underwear and socks. Authorities said at the time that his body appeared to have been abandoned a year earlier.

“We clearly believe this was a murder,” said Detective GF Radford, the sheriff at the time.

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Using the same technology that led to the arrest of the Golden State Killer in California, investigators extracted DNA from Newman’s bones and matched it to that of a distant relative. A genealogist then constructed the relative’s family tree and found the branch that ended with the man at the canal.

Newman joins a growing list of people identified using forensic genetic genealogy, an expensive investigative technique that has helped solve several high-profile cases in Palm Beach County, including the rape and murder of 78-year-old Mildred Matheny and the death of Baby June, an infant found in the Boynton Inlet.

Detectives search for friends and acquaintances of Joseph Newman

PBSO investigators, who work on cold cases, now hope to identify any known companions of Newman, including a muscular man known to investigators only as Jamie, “who often boasted about being a football player.” Jamie, who was in his mid-30s at the time of Newman’s disappearance, is believed to be one of the last people to see him.

Newman was last seen alive in the spring of 1983. Officials said he lived in Bal Harbour and Kendall in Miami-Dade County.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective John Cogburn at 561-688-4063, [email protected] or Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 1-800-458-TIPS (8477).. Crime Stoppers is offering up to $3,000 for information about Newman’s murder.

Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice for The Palm Beach Post. Reach her at [email protected].