|Bass River Township, Burlington County, N.J. - The New Jersey State Police, in partnership with the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s Office, and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification have identified human remains that date back to a missing juvenile case from 1972.
In April 2000, an off-duty state trooper walking in Bass River State Park found a piece of a sneaker and four bones. Detectives investigated, but were unable to identify the remains. The bones were turned over to the State Police Forensic Anthropology Lab for examination.
In December 2012, 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 informed by Cook County authorities that they were attempting to identify victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The 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 Steven Soden.
In April 1972, Steven Soden, 16, and his younger sister were living in a Paterson orphanage and were part of a group that traveled to Bass River for a week of outdoor activities. Soden and a 12 year old friend identified as Donald Caldwell, went missing on the night of April 3, never to be seen or heard from again.
The New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are continuing the investigation in an attempt to locate additional evidence, including information about Donald Caldwell.
The case agent, Detective Sergeant Stephen Urbanski, located a news article from April 6, 1972, describing a search for two missing juveniles. The article mentioned Steven Soden and Donald Caldwell being part of a group of 18 children and four adults from the Paterson Orphanage who were camping in Bass River Park.
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.