By Shelby Myers
MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — A body found in the Escatawpa River in Mississippi in 1982 has now been identified as Gary Simpson.
Simpson was a John Doe with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department for 40 years. His body was found around the same time the body of a baby, Jane Doe was found.
Simpson’s youngest sister, Tanya Leal said, “I always bragged that that was my best sibling.”
Leal said Gary, the oldest brother, was not only her favorite, but their mother’s too. The beloved 20-year-old vanished around 1982.
Leal recounts what happened when she was just 11 years old, “I remember his girlfriend coming over and telling my mom and dad that some people came and kidnapped him.”
Gary lived around the corner from them in the 7th ward of New Orleans.
Leal said their mother filed a missing person’s report and rumors circled for years, but there were never any real signs of Gary.
“This part I do remember, people would tell my mama, they just saw him here and there and mom and dad would go and look and nothing and so I don’t know who was playing these games with my mother…” said Leal.
Little did they know, two hours away, in Mississippi, Simpson was found in the swamps of the Escatawpa River underneath Interstate 10. Simpson’s cause of death was homicide. They just had no clue who he was. He was labeled a John Doe for forty years.
With the help of Othram, a company that uses DNA and genealogy to identify Jane and John Doe’s, Jackson County investigators let Leal and her siblings know they had their missing brother.
“I always thought one day he would come home,” Leal said, “It was very emotional for all of us because that was the first time we heard he was dead.”
Leal said she believed her brother did get into some trouble, but didn’t deserve to die.
Now, her family’s focus shifts on who did this to him.
Leal said she’ll hold tight to the good memories she shared with her brother all those years ago.
“He would dance like he was, I called him, the black John Travolta. He was the life of the party,” said Leal.
Leal said March 10th would have been Simpson’s 60th birthday.
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