Bones revive 41-year-old Pine Barrens mystery

Posted: May 15, 2013

Bones found in the Pine Barrens in 2000 have been identified as belonging to a 16-year-old boy who disappeared with another youth during an orphanage camping trip in 1972, state police said Tuesday.

The determination that the bones are those of Steven Soden has prompted a new search for information about his still missing companion and the Paterson orphanage from which they came.

According to state police, Soden and Donald Caldwell, 12, disappeared the night of April 3, 1972, while on a weeklong outing to Bass River State Park in Burlington County.

They were part of a group of 18 children and four adults from the Paterson Orphanage who went on the camping trip, state police said, citing a newspaper story about the search for the missing boys. Soden's younger sister also was on the trip.

In 2000, an off-duty state trooper walking in Bass River State Park found a piece of a sneaker and four bones.

Attempts to identify them then were unsuccessful and they were turned over to State Police Forensic Anthropology Lab for safekeeping.

In October, 2012, Soden's sister, then living in Washington State, provided a DNA sample to Cook County, Ill., investigators in the hopes of determining if her brother was among serial killer John Wayne Gacy's unidentified victims.

Testing by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification determined the DNA did not match any of Gacy's victims, but later determined it did match the bones found in Bass River.

New Jersey State Police detectives in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have launched an investigation to unearth information about the disappearance of the two boys and the Paterson Orphanage group.

Anyone with information is asked to call the center at 1-800-843-5678.

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