The last year has been a rather productive one for the detectives investigating the unsolved murder of Erik Cross, a 16-year-old boy who was found lying dead on the side of the road outside his home during the summer of 1983.
A spokesman for the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE investigators believe they are moving closer to solving the 33-year-old mystery. Within the past year, detectives have developed “key information” about how Cross died that seems to implicate a number of individuals, the spokesman reveals.
“About a year ago, we got some real, key information we had never released and it hit dead center,” explains Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas. “At one point, the phone was ringing off the hook. We’ve been pursuing a number of tips, with half actually helping to further the case.”
The 16-year-old was found by his father outside his home in Vicksburg, Michigan, on the morning of June 26, 1983. He was last seen the night before, stumbling home from a drinking party. Police claim witnesses recalled seeing Cross near a gas station that same evening, and that he was interacting with the occupants of two vehicles: a yellow car and another dark-colored vehicle.
Erik’s parents allegedly told police they heard a car turning around in their driveway about 30 minutes before his body was actually discovered.
At first, police suspected Cross was mowed down in a hit-and-run accident. But detectives have since revised their thinking. They now suspect the teen died before his body was purposely run over by someone staging it to look like he’d been struck by a fleeing car.
Erik’s body was then dumped on the side of the road near his home.
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Matyas tells PEOPLE that investigators suspect Erik was killed during a failed “hood-surfing” attempt. Specifically, police think Cross fell from the hood of an erratically-operated automobile before being subsequently crushed under the car’s tires.
“Last year, we definitely caught a break with this case,” says Matyas, noting detectives are anxious to present their case to prosecutors. “We’re definitely a lot further along with the investigation than we were even a year ago.”
Matyas tells PEOPLE his officers have identified five people of interest “who were either involved in this incident or assisted in covering it up.”
One of the lead suspects, Matyas says, won’t be hard for cops to track down, since he’s currently serving time in prison.
Matyas refused to discuss what new information investigators have developed and would not discuss when an arrest might occur.
“We are still building our case and to speculate would just cause more rumors, which don’t help our cause,” Matyas explains.