Skeletal remains found in 1974 identified as missing teen, possible victim of serial killer

Posted at 2:40 PM, June 2, 2022 and last updated 3:01 PM, July 26, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Scripps News West Palm) — After nearly five decades, Palm Beach County detectives announced Thursday they’ve identified a teen girl whose skeletal remains were discovered tied to a tree in 1974.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bill Springer said Susan Poole, who was born in 1957, may have been the victim of a serial killer.

Susan Poole (Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office)

Poole’s remains were discovered in June of 1974 in the mangroves in an area known as “Burnt Bridges” on A1A. According to Springer, Poole had vanished two years prior, just before Christmas of 1972.

“Nobody knew where she went,” Springer said. “Her clothes, pocketbook were still at an apartment that she was staying at.”

Late last year, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office sent the unidentified remains to Othram, a Texas-based forensics DNA lab that builds DNA profiles using genealogy.

The lab identified the deceased as Poole and helped investigators locate her parents and siblings. The family had lived in a Broward County trailer park at the time of Poole’s disappearance.

“The family was happy to know what happened. It’s been a long time waiting to see what happened to their sister,” Springer said.

Wilton Manors Police Dept. applicant photo of Gerard Schaefer, Sept. 16, 1970. (Wilton Manors Police Dept.)

Springer said Poole may have been the victim of serial killer Gerard Schaefer, a former Wilton Manors police officer and Martin County deputy who was convicted in 1973 of murdering two girls.

“Gerard Schaefer is the best suspect due to the location, the fact that she was in the mangroves, that she was tied up in the mangroves. He was active back then,” Springer said.

Schaefer, who investigators said preyed on young girls who were hitchhiking, was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate in Florida State Prison in the mid-90s.

Springer on Thursday said Othram’s genealogy technology is a “great investigative technique” and the sheriff’s office wants to use it on other unsolved cases.

The sheriff’s office is hoping to locate and speak with three of Poole’s friends — Julie Hunt, Michelle Williamson and Greg Anderson — to learn more about what may have happened to her.

Anyone with information that can help investigators is asked to call the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

This story was originally published June 2, 2022 by WPTV in West Palm Beach, an E.W. Scripps Company.