Man vanished 45 years ago, is now just discovered dead

A man from Alabama, who went missing almost 45 years ago, was just located in an Alabama creek.

William Earl Crooker was last seen at around 1 a.m. July 18, 1979, at the A&W Hickory Inn on Keller Avenue in Auburn, Alabama.

A private eye said that a witness saw Crooker leave the bar together with two friends, wearing a bright red jacket and baseball cap. Crooker’s wife reported him missing a few days later.

But one of the witnesses that was supposed to be there later didn’t know what to do with a body in the water, so they put it in the car and left.

Three months later, Crooker’s red Buick Park Avenue was found in a creek near the car’s original address.

“You’re gonna lose your mind at what happened to him. You’re going to weep,” said his older brother Bill Crooker, who now lives in Pittsburgh.

The case went cold until 2018, when the team of investigators from the private detective agency Fisher Forensics was hired to go back through old FBI files, to piece together the timeline.

“As things progressed, two things happened: finally evidence appeared, evidence being discovered. And then it culminated with the case being reopened,” said retired Auburn Police Officer John Gillis, whose current duties include serving as director of the Southeast Alabama Crime Lab.

The captain of the Auburn Police Department and the detective from the University of Auburn were also brought in.

The state of Alabama was even taken into account, as newly discovered evidence had been found in the area.

That’s when they realized this was not a case that was “forgotten”— the case was simply forgotten, said Gillis.

At the request of the local sheriff’s office, the FBI Forensic Science Unit turned over the crime scene investigation. But then the agency did even more—instead of reviewing the DNA evidence that was already available, they went through the system records to see if there was any evidence that would have suggested Crooker was a homicide victim, which was a surprising turn of events.

A Fox News team was allowed into the lab in February to see the forensics and revisit the cold case.

“We didn’t know that we were going to find anything. It was nothing like I would ever imagined it to be,” said Green, who is a retired Arkansas State Police sergeant.

For years, there were lots of doubts that Crooker was in fact the car’s owner. But in March this year, private investigator Greg Tarr presented the FBI with a complete picture of Crooker’s life. And, after five months of testing, the bones from the car were found to match those of William Crooker.

Gillis was overwhelmed with happiness when Tarr called and said they had found the vehicle, which had been damaged and revealed dirt in the back seat.

Now, the sheriff’s office is working to identify a gravesite in the 300 block of Martin Road in the Quail Hollow area, where it is believed the body was buried.

Anyone with information about Crooker or the whereabouts of his remains is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777.

Auburn Police is also asking for anyone with any information about Crooker’s missing blue 1969 Buick Park Avenue to contact Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777.

This story was brought to you by Michigan Families next Door and was produced with their assistance.

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