One night in 1978, five teenage boys disappeared without a trace in what would become one of the longest and most baffling missing-persons cases New Jersey has ever seen.
Thirty-two years later, prosecutors announced the arrests of two men and disclosed the victims' gruesome fate: They were herded at gunpoint into an abandoned building in a dispute over missing drugs and burned to death in a blaze that obliterated nearly all evidence.
'For years, their families have wondered what happened on that August day,' acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino said Tuesday. 'Today, we believe that question has been answered.'
A relative of one of the victims said that one of the men charged with the crimes, 56-year-old Lee Evans, confessed to him 18 months ago, setting investigators on the task of corroborating the confession. On Tuesday, authorities would only say that a witness came forward then but didn't give details.
'He just told me what happened,' Rogers Taylor, brother of Ernest Taylor, told reporters Tuesday.
Over the years, investigators conducted a nationwide search for the teens, chased hundreds of dead-end leads and enlisted at least two psychics. In the end, the evidence led back to a site just blocks from where the victims were last seen, in the same neighborhood where four of the teens lived, played and went to high school together.