Police charge childhood friend in 1974 death of boy on bike

AP News
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Posted: Feb 18, 2015 8:48 PM
Police charge childhood friend in 1974 death of boy on bike

DUNBAR, Pa. (AP) — New forensic tests conducted on an old blue coat have led police to arrest a childhood friend in the 1974 death of a Pennsylvania boy.

Fourteen-year-old John David Watson Jr. had biked to a motel to buy cigarettes for his mother, but never made it back home. His body was found on a neighbor's property the next morning, with a bullet in the back of the head.

Police in Fayette County interviewed Watson's 17-year-old friend, Joseph Leos, and seized his coat at the time but could never make an arrest until Wednesday.

Leos, now 58, of Mount Pleasant, was charged with criminal homicide. State police said that new tests done after the case was reopened in 2009 show the coat has gunpowder residue on it. Yet they said Leos had never mentioned firing a weapon, according to an affidavit filed in Fayette County to support the charges.

Police have also recovered a .22-caliber rifle, although they said tests to match it to the crime have been inconclusive, the affidavit said.

It's not immediately clear if Leos has a lawyer.

Watson had left home at about 9 p.m. on May 2, 1974, and stopped to play pinball at the motel, according to the police affidavit. Witnesses saw him biking home with his purchase and waved.

Leos was staying nearby with his grandmother in the Wheeler Bottom section of Dunbar Township, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Police believe that Watson was killed at about 9:30 p.m. following "an altercation or confrontation," the affidavit said.

Watson's brother told a newspaper two years ago that his mother, Sara Watson, had died not knowing who killed her son. He said he was optimistic the detectives reworking the case could learn what happened.

"Time for closure on it. We suffered enough," Tom Watson told the Daily Courier of Connellsville.