NEWARK, N.J. — On an August night 32 years ago, authorities say, three men who believed five teenage boys had stolen their drugs herded them into an abandoned house at gunpoint, tied them up and set the building on fire, burning them alive and leaving no trace.
Those details on one of the coldest and most baffling missing-persons cases New Jersey has ever seen became known Tuesday as prosecutors announced that two of the men had been arrested on a recent tip from a witness. A third suspect died in 2008.
The teens, ages 16 and 17, had not been seen since they disappeared, and the five bodies were never found in the rubble of the destroyed house. The suspects believed the boys had stolen a pound of marijuana from one of them, the Essex County prosecutor’s office said.
One of the suspects, 56-year-old Lee Evans, routinely hired teenagers to help with odd jobs, officials said. He was interviewed in the months after the disappearances but was cleared as a suspect.
Evans, of nearby Irvington, and Philander Hampton, 53, of Jersey City, were charged with murder and arson and are being held on $5 million bail each, prosecutor’s office said.
The boys, Melvin Pittman and Ernest Taylor, both 17, and Alvin Turner, Randy Johnson and Michael McDowell, all 16, were last seen on a busy street near a park where they had played basketball on Aug. 20, 1978.
By the time you finish reading this, 15 children will have been abused; In the next five minutes, 30 more; Within the next hour, 360 more; And by tonight, close to 8,000+ children will have suffered from abuse, 5 of which will die. Child abuse has increased 134% since 1980 and is now considered a worldwide epidemic. The high jump in child abuse deaths and the shocking increase in statistics highlights the frightening lack of public knowledge.
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It May Just Save a Child's Life!!