Investigators have finally identified the remains of a young woman that were found fifty years ago as those of a missing Broward County teen who may have died at the hands of a serial killer!
Detectives with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office have successfully identified the human remains that were found the morning of June 16, 1974, in a swampy area of Singer Island, located in North Palm Beach. The investigation at the time determined the remains were those of a female between 15 and 20 years of age – but that was pretty much all the technology available then could ascertain.
“She was skeletal remains, nothing left of her but the bones,” said PBSO Det. Bill Springer during a recent news conference. “Detectives did their job, but they didn’t have any of this new technology.”
Today, law enforcement has access to The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), which can perform state-of-the-art DNA tests to help solve cold cases that could not benefit from such databases at the time.
“In December of 2021, [NamUs] contacted me and said they would be able to possibly do genealogy on old cases. It was decided by the sheriff’s office and my supervisors we would send up the unknown remains of this girl from 1974,” said Springer.
NamUs identified the victim as a 15-year-old Susan Poole, who is believed to have disappeared before Christmas Day in 1972 from her home at a trailer park in Fort Lauderdale.
Detectives believe Poole may have been the victim of serial killer Gerard Schaefer, who was a former Martin County Sheriff’s Office deputy and former police officer in Wilton Manors. Springer said Schaefer lived near Poole.
While Schaefer remains a good possibility, PBSO said Poole’s mother is still alive, and they asked her for any help she could provide now that her daughter’s remains have been positively identified. They also asked her to identify any of Susan’s friends from the time that the police may be able to contact to find any leads as to what really happened to Susan.
“I found several of her friends, talked to her family members, and they all said she just disappeared,” Springer said. “If I could talk to some friends…I may never be able to close this case.”
Who Was Gerald Schaefer?
Gerald Schaefer was a notorious serial killer. He had a history of sadomasochistic behavior, including killing and torturing of animals as a child. But none of that stopped him from becoming a cop in 1971.
He used his position to kidnap, rape, torture, and kill several teenage girls until he was finally caught and convicted to double life sentences in 1973.
He had nine known victims, but over the next 22 years in prison, he allegedly confessed to dozens of more victims, only later to retract the statements. On December 3, 1995, Schaefer was found stabbed to death in his cell. He had been killed by a fellow inmate named Vincent Rivera.
Susan Poole fit the profile of the rest of Schaefer’s victims, all of whom were girls between the ages of 14 and 25. When her remains were found, she appeared to be tied up in the mangroves with wire to a tree, which was also consistent with Schaefer’s MO.
“Back in the 70s…72… he lived in Broward County in the area where Susan Poole lived,” Springer said. “He got arrested for kidnapping two girls, taking them out on A1A, and tying them up in the mangroves. He was convicted for killing several girls that were also tied up in the mangroves.”
Schaefer was a police officer in Wilton Manors when Poole was living at the trailer park. He had also served as a deputy in Martin County.
Still, Springer says that the connections between Poole and Schaefer are purely speculative for now, as there is no physical evidence linking the two.
“His MO was to pick up young girls hitchhiking. And back then, from her other friends, they told me she did hitchhike. Everything kind of fits that way, but I don’t have any physical evidence to link him to it,” Springer said.
This is why he is urging anyone with any information that could shed more light on just where Susan was and what she was doing before she went missing is asked to call the PBSO at 561-688-3000 or Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS.