Advanced technology solves 46-year-old missing person mystery in Pierre cemetery

PIERRE, S.D.(DRGNews)- A headstone at Riverside Cemetery in Pierre that has read “Unknown Man” for over 46 years has now been replaced with a grave marker identifying the person laid to rest there.

The body of a deceased male was found Aug. 9, 1976, floating in the Missouri River eight miles east of Farm Island near Pierre. The body was found in an advanced state of decomposition and there was no identification. In 2020, the cold case was reopened by Pierre Police Department Detective Trevor Swanson and a permit was obtained to exhume the remains. Samples were collected in order to obtain a DNA profile.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says this is where the efforts of Division of Criminal Investigation staff members and current forensic technology combined to identify the person.

39 year old Stephen “Earl” Boice’s (boyce) last known address was Seattle, WA.

In 2022, Swanson started working as a Special Agent with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, but remained assigned to the case. He says the work done by investigators in 1976 is what made it possible for modern technology to identify Boice.

With assistance from the South Dakota Forensic Laboratory, the unidentified individual’s DNA profile was compared to results found in genetic genealogy databases which resulted in a potential match for Boice. Investigators contacted his closest living relatives and at their request, the man’s remains were reinterred last fall at Riverside Cemetery.

Throughout the 46 years, the grave site was tended to by Gertrude Stone of Pierre and now by her daughter, Cheryl Stone, also of Pierre.

Now that Boice has been identified, Stone was asked if she planned to continue tending to the grave site, to which she responded “absolutely.”

An autopsy showed Boice’s probable cause of death was drowning and there was no evidence of foul play.

Swanson says Boice was known to be a frequent train hopper living a transient lifestyle and making contacts all over the country.

A permanent headstone marker was placed at the grave site last month.