NCIS agents are in Missouri for the first time in decades investigating a cold case that happened decades ago.
Daniel Erickson wasn't killed fighting a war but instead by an unknown killer on U.S. soil.
On Veterans Day 37 years ago, the 20-year-old was found murdered in Carrollton, MO. He was in the Navy on his way back to serve but never made it. A farmer found him in his barn. He had been shot twice in the chest and once in the head.
Erickson, or Danny to those who loved him, was shy. He joined the Navy to boost his confidence. His family said they saw him grow as a man every time he walked in the front door.
"When Danny came home, he was happy as a lark. He was going to get his car and go back to California for his last year in the Navy," Jim Erickson, Daniel's brother, said.
July 24, 1975, in north St. Paul, MN, was the last time his family every saw him alive.
"I broke down right there in front of God and everybody - that feeling really hasn't left me in 37 years," Jim Erickson said.
Daniel Erickson left home that morning driving his dream car, a brown 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. He headed across the country to his new ship, the USS Durham, in California. His father, who was a truck driver, helped plan his trip from St. Paul to San Diego, CA, with stops along the way to visit family.
Daniel Erickson only made it to Carrollton.
"When he was then murdered and left in a barn off the side of the highway, his car - with the perpetrator in it - continued to travel down the highway," said NCIS Special Agent Kaylyn Dueker.
Dueker specializes in NCIS cold cases.
Investigators said it looks like a hitchhiker took Daniel Erickson's life and then his car. His killer was involved in a hit-and-run in Birmingham, AL, within 24 hours after Daniel Erickson's death, but the person escaped an arrest.
The case sat cold for years due to the inability to communicate quickly across multiple states, that is until Daniel's brother called NCIS. He got the idea watching the show one night on CBS. To his surprise, a special agent agreed to take the case.
"Just because it happened in 1975, it doesn't make the loss any less. The family still feels that loss every day," Dueker said in a phone interview.
"There is a chance somebody may remember something. They might have met Daniel along the way while he was getting gas or saw him with someone," Dueker said.
For Daniel Erickson's siblings, every day is filled with pain because they don't have answers, answers that murder victims' families deserve.
"If this guy that murdered Danny has a conscience, he either confided or confessed to somebody. Or if he was a totally heartless person he may have even bragged about it to someone. That is the person we are trying to reach," Jim Erickson said.
Both of Daniel Erickson's parents died long before the new search for justice. While they were alive, they wouldn't leave the house or allow anyone to use the phone in case the Federal Bureau of Investigation or police called with information.
Daniel Erickson's siblings started a memorial website that asks for tips. If anyone has information about his case, they can visit the website, call the NCIS tip line at 1-877-579-3648 or submit a tip online.
NCIS officials said the unit has solved 63 murders since it was formed in 1995, including a 41-year-old case.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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