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Search for remains of mob victim continues upstate

From left, Gordon DeGeorge, vice president of the

From left, Gordon DeGeorge, vice president of the Cemetery of the Highlands, and JoAnne Sullivan, director of the cemetery, watch John Reilly of Reilly Excavating dig on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, as police searching for the remains of a victim of a mob hit from the 1960s. Credit: Craig Ruttle

New York State Police officials said they plan to continue searching a small upstate cemetery for the remains of an unidentified victim of a mob hit from the 1960s after initial digging on Thursday failed to find the container with the body.

Using a backhoe and shovels, excavators dug into the ground at the Cemetery of the Highlands in Highland Mills, where they believe the body of John Doe was buried. The remains being sought are those of a man between the ages of 45 and 55 whose body was found by a stream near the town of Tuxedo on Jan. 20, 1969.

The victim had been shot once in the head, and officials said the case was the result of a number of mob hits in the area during that period. It’s the oldest unidentified person case in the state.

But after digging, officials said they believe the body was moved to a different part of the cemetery, and the search might require the use of ground-penetrating radar to locate the remains.

“We are like bulldogs,” said senior police investigator Yan Salomon, brushing off suggestions that police were frustrated by finding an empty hole.

Police still want anyone who lost a loved one in that time to provide a DNA reference sample, Salomon said. Police already have some tissue containing DNA from the body when it was discovered in 1969. Police can be contacted at 845-782-8311.

“Does any family out there want to give us DNA?” asked Salomon.

The area where the body was discovered was a frequent dumping ground in the 1960s and early 1970s for mob-connected killings, including some involving the Gambino crime family out of New York City. One identified body from 1972 was that of Louise J. Mileto of Bellmore, who was tied to a major Gambino family heroin ring.

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