Unknown no more: Man whose brother died nameless in Centreville finally has closure

Danny Armantrout

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Joseph King

CENTREVILLE–After decades of uncertainty regarding what happened, on Dec. 28 Don Hamilton rested his hands atop the grave of his brother Daniel Paul Armantrout, 60 years after he was buried there and identified only as Unknown Boy.

Armantrout died March 27, 1961. He was a hitchhiker who’d been picked up near the line between Bibb and Shelby counties. Not long after he was picked up, tragedy struck and the car careened into a creek. The driver survived, but 15-year-old Danny did not.

“It’s very shocking and humbling, and I never thought it would happen in my lifetime,” Hamilton said. “It really brought back closure for the town and my family and myself,” Hamilton said.

The last time Hamilton spoke with Danny was December 1960, he said.

“We were both young teenagers in Paris, Tennessee, and we had just got through going hunting up in the mountains for a squirrel while I was on leave from basic training in the army,” Hamilton said. “I left to go back to basic training and Danny left home.”

Because he could not be identified and was not carrying identification, his death spawned a nationwide hunt for answers. At the time, The Centreville Press Publisher Jim Oakley decided it would be his lifelong mission to identify the unidentifiable. In 2016, the boy’s body was exhumed for DNA sampling. And earlier this year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children had a match.

On Tuesday, Centreville Mayor Mike Oakley, Jim Oakley’s son, made sure Hamilton knew how much his brother meant to the city.

“Since 1961, your brother has been a part of our family,” Oakley said.

Forensic genetic genealogist Misty Gills assisted in matching up Danny’s DNA with his identity, and she said she’s elated his family and the community who made him one of their own has the closure they sought.

“It’s one of the feelings that I would never trade for the world,” Gills said. “I would stay up a million nights working on a case just to have that feeling again.”

Hamilton, who lives in Florida, said knowing what happened to his brother after all these years means he can rest easy. But he’s also grateful for his found family.

“I just thank Bibb County and Centreville and all the people involved for the 60 years of taking the love and concern of my brother,” he said. “Thank you so much.”

Tuesday would have been Danny’s 76th birthday. 

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