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Mother, son found dead along interstate highways in Southeast identified after 20 years

More than two decades after the bodies of a woman and 10-year-old boy were found in separate states, each discarded along the side of a highway, officials announced Tuesday a DNA analysis identified the victims as a mother and son — and helped authorities to elicit a confession from their killer.

The identity of the woman was revealed Tuesday to be Myoung Hwa Cho. Cho was suffocated before her nude body, bearing ligature marks around the wrists, was discovered dumped in the woods along Interstate 85 in South Carolina in May 1998, The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

In September 1998, 215 miles away from where Cho’s body was dumped, the remains of a young boy were found under a billboard by workers mowing grass along Interstate 85 in Mebane, North Carolina.

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The Orange County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina said its own news release that, after trying other forensic analysis techniques — including even creating a bust of the child — the department used the analysis of an online DNA database to identify the child, who was a first-generation, biracial Caucasian and Asian.

Robert Adam Whitt's body was identified using a DNA database.

Robert Adam Whitt’s body was identified using a DNA database. (Orange County Sheriff’s Office)

“I always kept the case file box under my desk, where it was purposefully in my way. Every time I turned, I hit it with my leg. I did this so the little boy couldn’t be forgotten,” Orange County Sheriff’s Maj. Tim Horne, who worked the case from the beginning, said in a statement.

After identifying the race of the boy, the agency enlisted the help of a consultant, Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter. Rae-Venter, whose work led to an arrest in the Golden State Killer case, matched the child’s DNA to DNA from a close relative who had submitted information to an online DNA database. After contacting the relative, investigators learned the boy’s name: Robert “Bobby” Adam Whitt. They soon found out Whitt’s mom — who had disappeared the same year as her son — was also dead.

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With help from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, authorities in North Carolina said an unidentified female matching the search criteria was located in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. After contacting officials there, the DNA of the victims were compared and soon proved to be mother and son.

Authorities in South Carolina used fingerprints, with the help of the Korean National Police and INTERPOL, to identify the woman as Myoung Hwa Cho.

Myoung Hwa Cho is shown on a poster provided by the Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Sheriff's Office.

Myoung Hwa Cho is shown on a poster provided by the Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Sheriff’s Office. (Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Sheriff’s Office via AP)

“This case is an example of dogged determination of investigators who refused to give up,” Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said. “The efforts of Major Tim Horne and the entire investigation division were exemplary.”

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Investigators then were led to Cho’s husband and Whitt’s father who is currently serving federal time for unrelated convictions, according to FOX Carolina.

The husband confessed to the murder of both victims within several months of each other in 1998, according to police.

Officials said that it does not appear that either killing took place in Spartanburg County or Orange County, so the man’s identification is being withheld until authorities can determine where the mother and son were killed and a prosecutorial decision can be made.

Authorities commended the work of both offices in utilizing new technology to finally crack the cold cases. Last year, detectives across the country said they were able to locate suspects in 28 cold cases after uploading crime scene DNA to GEDmatch.com, a public genealogy website.

“With technology what it is today, crimes that have gone unsolved before are now ripe for resolution,” Blackwood said.

Fox News’ Robert Gearty contributed to this report.

Plane makes emergency landing on Minnesota interstate exit ramp, taxis to convenience store parking lot

A pilot of a small plane executed the perfect emergency landing on Saturday, even parking at a Minnesota convenience store after the aircraft overheated.

The Chisago County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post the incident happened around 11 a.m. in the town of Stacy, located about 35 miles north of Minneapolis.

The yellow aircraft overheated, and the pilot had to land on an exit ramp off Interstate 35 before taxiing to the parking lot of a nearby Kwik Trip convenience store.

“There were no injuries or crashes as a result,” the sheriff’s office said. “We are deciding whether or not to issue him a citation for being quadruple parked, though,” the office quipped.

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The pilot, Michael Robbins, 47, of Green Lake, Minn., told FOX9 his temperature gauge showed that his plane was at an unsafe temperature to continue to fly and that he needed to land quickly.

“My alarms started going off in my dash to let me know I have a serious problem and then I started looking for a place to land and that was the best option,” he said.

The pilot made an emergency landing on an exit ramp off Interstate 35 in Stacy, Minn. on Saturday.

The pilot made an emergency landing on an exit ramp off Interstate 35 in Stacy, Minn. on Saturday. (Chisago County Sheriff’s Office)

Robbins said throughout the whole ordeal he stayed calm, and his nerves only hit when the plane was parked.

“Afterward, I got worried and started shaking,” he told FOX9.

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Robbins later determined the issue was a coolant leak, which he was able to fix in the parking lot.

“It got cooked onto the muffler, just spraying out there slowly and brought me down,” he told FOX9. “That started flashing to let me know I had a serious problem.”

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Authorities later closed off a nearby roadway so Robbins could take off again and fly the plane to a nearby airport.

No injuries or damages were reported as a result of the emergency landing. The Federal Aviation Administration told FOX9 it was notified of the incident, but doesn’t need to get involved because no injuries or damage took place.

Illinois state trooper fatally stuck while investigating vehicle crash on interstate

An Illinois state trooper was struck and killed Saturday while investigating a traffic crash, police said.

Trooper Christopher Lambert, 34, was traveling home on Interstate 294 near Northbrook — about 25 miles north of Chicago  –when he saw a three-car crash and stopped to investigate, Leo Schmitz, director of Illinois State Police, said during a news conference late Saturday.

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“He sees a three-vehicle crash, he positions his vehicle in the left-hand lanes so to save the lives of those people in the crash,” Schmitz said. “He was struck and lost his life while he was doing that.”

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Lambert, a five-year veteran of the state police, was standing near the crash site when he was struck by a Jeep traveling north, WGN-TV reported. The vehicle failed to slow down and threw Lambert several feet, the station said.

A nurse at the scene performed CPR on him until paramedics arrived.

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Lambert was pronounced dead at a hospital around 7:25 p.m., the Chicago Tribune reported.

“We lost our trooper, we became weaker,” Schmitz said. “We lost one of our own, one of our best. Everybody loved him.”

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Trooper Duane Chappell said Lambert “worked really hard every day for five years.”

He leaves behind a 1-year-old child.

Florida interstate crash kills at least 6, injures 8

At least six people were killed and eight others injured Thursday in a multivehicle crash on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Florida, authorities said.

The Florida Highway Patrol says two tractor-trailer rigs and two passenger vehicles were involved in the crash, which took place about a mile south of Alachua. Alachua County Fire Rescue reported that flames ignited after 50 gallons of diesel fuel spilled on the highway. The fire was later extinguished.

Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post that “multiple patients” had suffered “critical injuries,” but did not specify how many. At one point, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office dispatched a helicopter to look for potential victims in the woods off the highway.

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“Two semis were involved and on both of them at least the trailer part has burned,” Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan told The Gainesville Sun. “At least some of the fatalities were in at least one of the passenger vehicles.”

I-75 was closed in both directions due to the severity of the crash.

“There are engine parts and components, and there is a lot of area that is burned,” Riordan told The Sun. “Contamination of fuel is a high probability at this point.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Large spool in Texas barrels down interstate once again

Texas drivers traveling down Interstate 610 on Friday had to share the road with an unlikely item – a large spool.

The sizeable object had been on board a truck before it spilled on to the road, officials told Fox 13 News. No one was hurt after it fell off, the outlet said.

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The scene as the spool rolled down the freeway was caught on video and nearby vehicles could be seen navigating around it. One individual is heard on the recording urging someone to call 911.

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“Holy cow, what is that thing?” a person said.

This isn’t the first time drivers in the state have had to contend with such an unusual item. In October, a giant industrial spool was also spotted barreling down Interstate 10.

Fox News’ Nicole Darrah contributed to this report.

Family of Florida woman who died on first date claim she was left for dead on interstate: report

The family of a Florida woman who reportedly died Friday after falling off a motorcycle during a first date claims her date left her for dead on an interstate, reports said.

Jennifer St. Clair, 33, was found dead around 3 a.m. near an Interstate 95 exit in Pompano Beach, West Palm Beach’s WPBF-TV reported. The man she was on a date with left her on the road to die, the victim’s family said, according to the station.

“We don’t know how anybody could do something like that. It’s the hardest part,” Amy Gamer, the victim’s aunt, said.

Authorities said she had been struck by several cars while lying on the roadway, the report said.

Her date picked her up on Thursday night around 10 a.m., the family told The Miami Herald.

“That’s all the family knows, that she was on a date with a fellow. They believe they met online somehow,” the family’s attorney, Todd Falzone, told the paper. “Two other couples, who were also on motorcycles, also went along.”

The family believes she fell off while they were returning from the date.

Florida Highway Patrol officials said St. Clair’s death is being investigated as a traffic homicide, the paper reported.  Several drivers accidentally ran over the victim around 1:30 a.m., the report said. Some witnesses said they saw a man on a motorcycle standing near the victim’s body and then took off, The Herald reported. That storyline matches what authorities said, according to the family.

St. Clair worked as a server in restaurants and lived in Fort Lauderdale with her parents, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Pompano Beach, where her body was found, is about 11 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

“She was surrounded by a big family who loves her so much,” Gamber told the paper of her niece. “We’re still trying to process all of this.”