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Bones Identified as NJ Boy Missing Since 1972

Today, the New Jersey State Police have identified human remains as those of Steven Soden, a boy who went missing more than 40 years ago.

In April 1972, 16-year-old Steven Soden and his younger sister were living in a Paterson, New Jersey orphanage and were part of a group that traveled to Bass River for a camping trip. Soden and friend 12-year-old Donald Caldwell, went missing on the night of April 3, never to be seen or heard from again.

Steven Soden (NJ Office of Attorney General)
Steven Soden (NJ Office of Attorney General)

The investigation was as thorough as it was fascinating.

The case agent, Detective Sergeant Stephen Urbanski, found a news article from April 6, 1972, describing a search for two missing kids. The article mentioned Steven Soden and Donald Caldwell being part of a group of 18 children and four adults who were camping in Bass River Park.

In 2000, an off-duty state trooper walking in Bass River State Park found a piece of a sneaker and four bones.

Detectives investigated, but couldn’t identify the remains. The bones were then turned over to the State Police Forensic Anthropology Lab for examination.

A DNA Match

The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification for DNA testing notified State Police Forensic Anthropologist Donna Fontana that the bones matched a DNA sample submitted by a Washington State woman in October 2012. The sample was submitted as part of an investigation by Cook County detectives.

Detectives from the Missing Persons Unit were told by Cook County authorities that they were attempting to identify victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. A woman believed her brother, Steven Soden, was an unidentified victim of Gacy. Her DNA was not a match in the Gacy case, but it helped the Burlington County Medical Examiners Office identify the human remains as those of Steven Soden.

State Police detectives are asking the public’s assistance with any information about Donald Caldwell, Steve Soden and the Paterson Orphanage group. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-THE-LOST.

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