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updated: 2/17/2017 6:09 AM

How new technology helped solve cold case of long-missing Streamwood teen

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  • Former Streamwood resident James Allen Reymer in a middle-school yearbook photo at right, and a digital rendering, left, made two years ago based on photos of his skull. His body was found in North Carolina in 1984.

    Former Streamwood resident James Allen Reymer in a middle-school yearbook photo at right, and a digital rendering, left, made two years ago based on photos of his skull. His body was found in North Carolina in 1984.

  • This is the area near Glenville, North Carolina, where the long unidentified body of a teen boy was found Feb. 12, 1984. The body was recently confirmed to be that of former Streamwood resident James Allen "Jimmy" Reymer.

    This is the area near Glenville, North Carolina, where the long unidentified body of a teen boy was found Feb. 12, 1984. The body was recently confirmed to be that of former Streamwood resident James Allen "Jimmy" Reymer.
    courtesy of the Crossroads Chronicle

 
 

New technologies -- from forensic facial reconstruction to the internet -- finally helped identify the body of a teenage boy found in rural North Carolina 33 years ago as that of a onetime Streamwood resident.

That and persistent detective work helped overcome obstacles to provide closure for the family of 16-year-old Jimmy Reymer. He'd been using a stolen alias at the time of his suicide and was no longer facially recognizable when his body was discovered.

Such a breakthrough carries with it a conflict of emotions, said Carol Schweitzer, supervisor and case manager of forensic services for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

While it's sad to confirm the death of a young person, bringing resolution to Reymer's mother and sister, who still live in the Streamwood area, was a chief goal of the investigation, she said.

The outcome also proved that even after a third of a century, there's still hope of finding answers in a missing person case.

"It gives us encouragement," she said.

Even though a makeshift resume found near the body in February 1984 mentioned Streamwood High School, Streamwood police had no reports of a missing person that matched.

Rather, Reymer had been reported missing from Memphis, Tennessee, where he'd been living with a family friend before running away.

In fact, Reymer never attended Streamwood High School at all, having moved to Memphis after just a period of attending middle school, Schweitzer said.

Streamwood police Cmdr. Michael Zeigler said he's since learned Reymer had been having problems adjusting to life and school in suburban Chicago after his family originally moved from Memphis, despite being a bright student.

By mutual agreement, Reymer moved back to Memphis to stay with that friend of the family, where he was reported missing in June 1983. "Why he ran away, we don't know," Schweitzer said.

The major breakthrough in the case began two years ago, when a digital reconstruction of the face of "John Doe," based on archived photos of his skull, was created and distributed by the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children.

Because of the reference to Streamwood made on a McDonald's place mat where the boy had written down his job and education history, the Daily Herald was one of the media outlets sent the image in February 2015. The newspaper wrote a front-page story on the search for an ID for the boy.

About two months later, a middle school friend of Jimmy Reymer contacted the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children, saying he thought he recognized the image in the Daily Herald story as that of an older version of his long lost buddy.

He provided a middle-school yearbook photo of Reymer that led the search for clues to its next and final round.

A restaurant called Leah's near the area of John Doe's death was another place listed on his resume. Though Leah's closed in 1991, former owner Leah Tove was contacted two years ago and said the reconstructed image somewhat resembled a boy who had worked for her for a short time, but whom she knew only by the false name of John Norris.

Tove has since died, but when her husband was recently shown Reymer's middle-school photo he confirmed it to be the teen who'd worked at his wife's restaurant.

That was the breakthrough that ultimately solved the case, Zeigler said. Because Reymer's body had been cremated, there was no opportunity for any kind of DNA comparison. His lack of dental work also made a dental records search unsuccessful.

A further obstacle was that the block letters in which he'd written his resume made a handwriting comparison impossible.

Zeigler took it upon himself two years ago to search the Streamwood High School yearbooks from 1980 to 1985 for a boy who looked like the one in the reconstructed image.

"We found thousands of boys that looked like that," he said. "Nothing that narrowed it down."

Reymer's family members were understandably sad when the confirmation of his death was made, but they had been well-prepared over the past two years since the classmate came forward that the body found in Jackson County, North Carolina, could be him, Zeigler said.

Now they've received a long sought sense of closure on his life, including a death certificate in his name.

Reymer's family did not respond to a request for a comment.

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