Two to six times a day for the past 28 years, Scott Fisher has driven along a busy stretch of highway near his home in Fruit Heights, Utah, never noticing anything out of the ordinary.
Then two months ago, on the afternoon of Feb. 5, he spotted a police cruiser parked along U.S. Highway 89. He didn’t give it much thought until a few hours later, when he drove past again. This time, he counted more than two dozen police vehicles. “I knew right away that it must be something more serious than a hiker falling and getting injured,” Fisher, 60, tells PEOPLE.
He was shocked to learn that a jogger had found a human skull after it apparently rolled to the bottom of the hill. At the top, law officials discovered bones in a shallow grave. On March 12, they announced that the remains belonged to Theresa Rose Greaves, a 23-year-old newcomer to Utah who had disappeared on Aug. 5, 1983, on her way to a job interview.
Greaves had left her home state of New Jersey for Utah with a roommate, hoping that she would find a good job, learn about the Mormon Church and meet Donny Osmond, says Fisher.
The discovery that the young woman had been murdered and buried 32 years ago saddened the former deejay and longtime genealogist who now hosts a nationally syndicated radio show called “Extreme Genes.” When Fisher learned that police weren’t having any luck tracking down Greaves’ next of kin, he volunteered to help find them himself.
A Lucky Break
First, Fisher called Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson, a close friend. “I told him, ‘This is something I’m pretty good at – I’d like to try and find her relatives,’ ” he recalls. “I figured it was the least I could do. I’d like to think that somebody would do the same for me if one of my family members went missing.”
When Fisher learned on a missing persons website that Greaves had been wearing a class ring from Collingswood High School in New Jersey, he started his search by leaving a message on a Facebook page for the class of ’77 – Greaves’ graduating class.
Debbie Veevers, a former classmate who fondly remembered “the shy girl who sat with me in the back of the class,” responded and offered to knock on the doors of some of Greaves’ old neighbors in Collingswood.
“All these years, we’d been trying to track her down for our class reunions, never realizing that she’d gone missing in Utah,” says Veevers, 56. “When I read Scott’s email on the Facebook page and learned that Theresa had been murdered, I sat down and cried. I wasn’t close to her, but we were schoolmates and kindred spirits.”
After talking to a woman who remembered one of Greaves’ uncles, Veevers found the deed to the family’s house at City Hall and forwarded the names on the document to Fisher.
“I then had the names of Theresa’s great-grandmother, her grandmother and three of the grandmother’s sons,” he says. “That was enough to get things started.”
Finding Theresa’s Family
Fisher located an address for Joseph in Virginia, but it turned out the house was no longer there. So for several days he did web searches for the name “Greaves” and eventually tracked down Joseph’s daughter and Theresa’s cousin, Cathy Greaves Spurgeon, who lives in Brooksville, Florida.
“I remember that my cousin was a beautiful, funny young girl that I looked up to like a sister,” says Spurgeon, now 52. “I can remember our sleepovers and how Theresa loved to share her toys with me. We really had a lot of fun together.”
Spurgeon told Fisher that Theresa was raised by their grandmother, Mary K. Greaves, who was heartbroken when Theresa left home in her late teens and was subsequently reported missing in Utah.
Mary died in 1997, always hopeful that her granddaughter would be found, says Spurgeon. “Not one family member ever forgot about Theresa,” she says. “We always had hope. We never thought all these years later that we’d get a phone call saying that her remains had been found.”
Fisher learned from Spurgeon that Theresa had a half-brother, who has chosen to remain anonymous as he mourns the sister he has wondered about for three decades.
“Apparently they were close and he was very shaken by this,” says Fisher. “Like any brother, he’d always hoped she’d be found alive.”
The family is now planning to bury Theresa with her grandmother in Newport News, Virginia, with funds raised by Veevers and her classmates through a GoFundMe page in Theresa’s name.
“We’re so grateful to Scott Fisher for all his hard work in locating us,” says Spurgeon. “And it was so wonderful that Debbie Veevers stepped up the way she did. Our family has two new friends that are part of our family now.”
“Because of Scott’s skilled genealogical work, it really sped things up for us,” adds Sheriff Richardson. “Now that we’ve found Theresa Greaves’ family, we can concentrate on putting together a 32-year-old case.”
Richardson, 50, says detectives are currently looking at a “couple of suspects” who were interviewed after Theresa’s disappearance in the 1980s, “but it’s going to take some time,” he says. “We need to step back and take another good look before moving forward.”
As for Fisher, he’s simply happy that Theresa’s family finally has some answers.
“She was buried on that hillside longer than she was alive,” he says. “I feel a great sense of gratitude that I was able to get this done, but I also feel that the attention should be on the family and bringing them closure and peace. They need to know who did this. So there’s still a puzzle yet to be solved.”
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