Skeletal Remains Found in 1974 Identified as Missing Teen Susan Poole, Possible Link to Florida Serial Killer

Authorities identified their best suspect as Gerard Schaefer, a former police officer and local serial killer active at the time of Poole's disappearance

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office . Susan Gale Poole.
Photo: Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

Authorities in Florida have finally pinpointed the identity of a young girl whose skeletal remains were found tied to a tree in 1974.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Detective Bill Springer said at a Thursday news conference that DNA testing revealed the remains belonged to Susan Poole, who may have been the victim of a local serial killer who was active at the time.

Poole, who was reported missing by family in December of 1972, lived in a Broward County trailer park with her parents and "several brothers," Springer said. Last year, authorities sent the then-unidentified remains to Othram Inc., a private DNA lab that performs forensic-grade genome sequencing.

Othram identified the remains as Poole and led investigators to her family members, who said their loved one "just disappeared," leaving behind her clothes, handbag, and other important personal belongings at a friend's apartment.

Two years after reporting Poole missing, authorities found the decomposed skeleton bound to a mangrove tree with wire in an area off A1A.

Springer said a convicted serial killer, Gerard Schaefer, was a Wilton Manors police officer as well as a sheriff's deputy in nearby Martin County. Schaefer was convicted of killing two girls and tying them up in trees in 1973.

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"He lived in Broward County, in the area where Susan Poole lived," Springer noted. "He got arrested for kidnapping two girls, taking them out on A1A and tying them up in the mangroves."

Springer said Schaefer, who was fatally stabbed by a fellow inmate in Florida State Prison in the 1990s, is investigators' best suspect.

Investigators were able to contact Poole's mother, now in her 90s, and siblings to at last bring some closure to the missing persons case.

"The family was happy to know what happened. It's been a long time waiting to see what happened to their sister," Springer said.

Police are now looking for more details about Poole's disappearance. Anyone with information is urged to contact Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

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