Fort Jackson reopens case of boy, 9, missing since 1972

cwinston@thestate.comJune 7, 2014 

Michael Woodward is pictured at age 9 on the left and in a time-progressed photo of what he would look like today at 51. Images provided by Fort Jackson.

— The case of a 9-year-old boy who went missing from Fort Jackson in 1972 has been reopened.

Michael — the son of Maj. Joe Woodward, the staff judge advocate on post — went missing one Sunday afternoon while his father was mowing the grass. Despite national attention, Michael was never found and the case went cold.

However, Fort Jackson officials announced on Friday that the case has been reopened.

Patrick O’Connor, deputy director for emergency services at Fort Jackson, is credited for bringing new attention to the case.

“I started reviewing the case file on my own and working with the former investigator and ... the cold case investigator and just started building theories," he said in a release.

"And we’ve done a few things along the way."

After five years of reviewing the file, O’Connor received permission from Fort Jackson commanders to reopen the case. That allowed him to enlist the help of Military Police Investigator Carlos Monday. O’Connor was able to get the case listed on the National Crime Information Center database and with the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, which means that the case is visible to law enforcement agencies across the nation.

Michael’s parents are no longer alive, but investigators have been working with other family members who remain hopeful about getting closure. His uncle lives in Greer and provided a DNA sample.

Michael is the only missing person in the history of Fort Jackson, O'Connor said. He said he hopes that people who were on or near Fort Jackson at the time still remember the case.

“It was a pretty significant event, even though the amber alert system didn’t exist back then,” O’Connor said. “But for the installation it was a pretty significant event.”

A search party of more than 400 soldiers, volunteers on horseback, on motorcycles and in jeeps, and three helicopters took part in the massive search initially.

O'Connor said he encourages everyone with any information about the case to come forward. Tips may be submitted anonymously.

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Michael Woodward should call the Fort Jackson Military Police at (803) 751-1418, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) THE-LOST (843-5678) or Midlands Crimestoppers at (888) CRIME-SC (274-6372).

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