A North Carolina man accused of killing his son appeared in court on Monday to face charges, 21 years after the boy’s remains were found under a billboard sign.
WRAL reports that 57-year-old John Russell Whitt was indicted in May for the murder of Robert “Bobby” Adam Whitt. On Monday morning, the suspect appeared in court for a preliminary hearing. He’s facing first-degree murder charges.
Bobby, 10 at the time, disappeared in 1998, along with his mother, Myong Hwa Cho. In September 1998, authorities found the boy deceased and hidden under a Mebane billboard.
John Russell Whitt made his first appearance. pic.twitter.com/5SZBBqUDo3
— Virginia Bridges (@VirginiaBridges) August 12, 2019
According to court documents, a lawn maintenance crew saw the boy’s child-sized skull, bleached from the sun, under a billboard by Industrial Drive, near I-85. Police later found money and maggots inside one of the boy’s pockets.
A medical examiner determined that Bobby had been strangled to death.
The boy’s remains didn’t match any of the children in local databases or in the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) database. In turn, Bobby’s remains were kept at the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, in the Osteology Hall, for decades.
In July 2018, investigators took a renewed interest in the case and used genealogical DNA testing to find a match, while NCMEC created a facial reconstruction of Bobby.
Meanwhile, the pieces to the puzzle of another death began fitting together.
On May 13, 1998, authorities found Myong’s body behind a pile of debris in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. She, too, had been strangled to death. Authorities said Myong was found naked with bind marks on her wrists. DNA testing determined Bobby was Myong’s son.
Investigators said mom and son were likely killed somewhere in the Concord area before the suspect dumped them in different locations.
No one reported the pair missing because, according to Bobby’s cousin, Natalie Mosteller, Whitt told people he split up with Myong and that she went back to Korea with their son.
Mosteller told The News & Observer that Bobby was a sweet little boy who absolutely loved his father.
“Bob, he was a precious little boy. He was so sweet, he was so kind,” Mosteller said. “I’m the oldest of three girls, and he was my only first cousin. He spent a lot of time at our house, and he was the little brother that I always wanted and never had.”
“He adored his father. That’s another thing that absolutely blows our minds about this, is how close of a relationship his father seemed to have with him and that he could actually do these things.”
Mosteller said she lost contact with Bobby when Whitt moved his family from Ohio to North Carolina. She said she later tried in vain to find the boy on social media. When she couldn’t locate hime, Mosteller said she had hoped he was doing OK in Korea and simply chose not to speak with his family in the U.S.
“I personally, my sisters as well, spent a great deal of time trying to track him down on Facebook and Instagram, things like that, with no success,” Mosteller told WRAL. “We were hoping, like worst-case scenario, that his family in South Korea had turned him against us somehow and that’s why he wasn’t trying to reach out to us.”
John Russell Whitt, who’s currently behind bars on an armed robbery charge, reportedly admitted to killing both his wife and child. Although he’s accused of killing Myong, he still hasn’t been charged in connection with her death.
Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
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[Feature Photo: Bobby Whitt/Handout; NCMEC]