The persistence of a police officer and a woman’s desire to connect with her long-lost cousin has come to a gruesome conclusion.
Robert “Bobby” Adam Whitt was 10 when he and his mother, Myoung Hwa Cho, supposedly left their family in Ohio. No one suspected the worst; Cho’s husband told the family that she and Bobby had moved back to her native South Korea, a relative said Tuesday (Feb. 5).
Maj. Tim Horne, an investigator with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office was one of the first officers on the scene after a skull had been discovered under a billboard off a busy highway in Mebane, North Carolina on Sept. 25, 1998.
Forensics concluded that the badly decomposed body was that of a 10-year old boy who had been strangled. After an extensive search, Horne was unable to connect the boy to any missing person reports. He became known as the “Billboard Boy.”
As years passed, technology advanced and the remains were reanalyzed, yielding new information and possible leads. DNA revealed that the mystery child was first-generation, biracial Caucasian and Asian.
Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter, genetic genealogy consultant credited with assisting authorities to solve the Golden State Killer case, reviewed the ancestry DNA, leading to the identification of a close relative of the child. Investigators then contacted various members of the child’s genetic family tree. On December 26, 2018, a member of the boy’s immediate family responded to a voicemail left by investigators. The close family member provided the child’s name and critical details related to the case.
Now that Bobby Whitt has been identified, Horne wondered where was the mother? He combed through mountains of cold case files and discovered that an unidentified Asian female’s body had been found four months after the boy’s body was discovered in South carolina, about 200 miles from Melbane.The body was that of an Asian female who was tied up and strangled and whose body was dumped off of a busy roadway, just like Bobby.
DNA tests identified her as Bobby’s mother, Myoung Hwa Cho.
While Horne was seeking the identity of the Billboard Boy, the family of the missing boy and mother were trying to find what happened to their relatives.
Bobby’s cousins had searched the internet trying to find some clue, hoping that their missing cousin had set up a Facebook page or some other social media site.
years had gone by, and there was no success in finding him, it was like
a nagging in the back of my head maybe something had happened to him,
but it’s not something you ever want to believe,” said Natalie
Mosteller, who was 19 when she last saw her then-10-year old cousin.. “I
was hoping that worst-case scenario her family had just turned him
against us. I didn’t want to believe that he was actually dead.”
The family released the following statement:
“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. 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. 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.”
Bobby’s father and Mosteller’s uncle is the key suspect in the homicides. Formal
charging of the suspect will begin once jurisdictional issues are
addressed. He is currently in long-term incarceration in a federal
facility on unrelated charges.
“It appears neither this county nor Orange County are the location of either homicide from 20 years ago,” the sheriff’s office said, so the suspect’s identity is not being released “until the jurisdictional question can be answered.”
The remains will be shipped back to the family in Ohio where they plan to bury them next to their grandmother.
A family member has started a GoFundMe to reunite Bobby with his mother and give them a proper burial. If you’d like to learn more, or donate, please click here.
“I would have been happy if anybody had been able to solve the case, because I simply wanted the case solved and little boy to go back to his family. At least they have a place to mourn and lay
flowers,” Horne said. “But to be able to be part of it at the last minute, that was very meaningful.”
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