"Our brother told us Bobby's mother, Myong took him back to Korea to raise him and we believed him," the suspect's family said in a statement
After twenty years, a DNA kit helped identify the remains of a young Ohio boy who’d been murdered and dumped along a North Carolina highway. In the process, detectives also identified his mother, who had been found murdered in South Carolina around the same time.
A landscaping crew discovered Robert “Bobby” Adam Whitt’s skull and bones under a billboard along Interstate 85 in the small town of Mebane, about an hour outside of Raleigh back in September 1998. Because of the condition of the remains, detectives believed the body had been there for several months.
Orange County Sheriff’s detective Major Tim Horne has been working the case from the very beginning and always believed he would find out who the boy was.
“I always felt like it would be solved and this is a real victory for an entire team of people who have worked these cases,” Horne tells PEOPLE.
Bobby’s mother’s case is in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where detectives say in May 1998 they found a woman’s naked body in the woods off of Interstate 85. An autopsy determined she’d been suffocated to death. But they never knew who she was.
Meanwhile, Horne had spent his entire investigative career with the box of evidence related to the little boy’s case under his desk. He’d tried everything over the years, always taking advantage of new technology as it became available. Late last year, Dr. Barabra Rae-Venter, the genealogy consultant credited with helping solve the Golden State Killer case, used DNA from Bobby and matched it to DNA from the ancestry database to find a close relative of the boy.
Detectives tracked down that relative who told them the boy’s mother – who was also likely dead – that no one never reported her missing because they’d been told she’d taken the boy back to live in Korea where she was from.
That information helped connect and identify the boy and his mother.
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Spartanburg County deputies worked with Korean National Police and INTERPOL and used fingerprints to identify their victim as Myoung Hwa Cho.
Detectives say that led them to her husband and the boy’s father, who is currently in federal prison for armed robbery and is not eligible for parole until 2037. His name has yet to be publicly revealed.
Investigators allege he confessed to killing both Bobby and Myoung Hwa, according to the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators also said they have yet to figure out who has jurisdiction of the case before the suspect can officially be charged.
The suspect’s family released a statement upon news of the latest update in the case. “Our hearts are broken into a million pieces. We had no idea that Bobby and Myong Hwa were no longer with us and had not been for a very long time. It came as a total shock to us when we spoke to Major Horne,” they said, according to ABC11.
“Our world fell apart. We don’t think we can ever forgive our brother for what he did. Bobby was the sweetest, kindest, and funniest little boy. He always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. And to think of that being snuffed out brings a chill to our hearts. Our brother told us Bobby’s mother, Myong took him back to Korea to raise him and we believed him,” the statement continued. “Now we need to bring him and his mother home where they belong and bury them next to his grandmother who adored him. We would like to thank the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and most especially Major Tim Horne for his 20 plus years of work and never giving up hope and finding Bobby’s family. The family would like this time for privacy and to grieve.”
A family member has started a GoFundMe page to reunite Bobby with his mother and give them a proper burial.