Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The body of a young sailor from St. Paul, Daniel Erickson, was found on Veteran’s Day in 1975. His family has spent more than 37 years searching for his killer. Now, they have the help of NCIS.
Daniel Erickson, then 20, was home on leave back in 1975. He was to celebrate his birthday and drive his car from St. Paul to California to his new assignment aboard the USS Durham, but he never made it.
It was the last time they’d see their brother alive.
The summer of 1975, Daniel was home with family and friends.
“He left on the 24th of July. On the 25th of July, we got a call from the Alabama State Police telling us that Danny had been in an accident and had left the scene of the accident,” said Jim Erickson.
Daniel’s father, a truck driver, meticulously planned Danny’s trip.
Daniel’s brother, Jim Erickson, says he knew something was wrong.
“The route that he was supposed to take was from St. Paul to Des Moines, Iowa and then head west out of Des Moines,” Jim said.
So, how did his 1970 metallic brown Camaro end up in Alabama? Erickson knew his brother would never venture off course and the description of the man seen running from the accident, well, he was certain it was not his brother.
Daniel was reported a deserter, four months later, the family got that call.
“That was on Veteran’s Day when they found the body,” Jim said.
Daniel’s body was found in a barn just east of Kansas City, in Carrollton, Missouri, he had been shot twice in the chest and once in the head.
“Danny was the type of guy who would give you his last dollar and I think it was his kindness and his generosity that got him where he is today,” said Dianna Lattin, Danny’s sister.
It’s believed Danny picked up a hitchhiker on his way to California and was killed for his car.
The family searched for answers, even starting a blog so others could help. It wasn’t until 2009 the family found hope after watching a popular CBS prime time show.
“I started watching all these programs the NCIS all this cold case kind of stuff,” Jim said.
So, Jim called a NCIS investigator and she took the case. The family now hopes just like in the TV show, the special agents get their man. Special agent Kaylyn Dueker says the Navy has never forgotten Daniel Erickson. She says the unit has solved 63 murders since it was formed in 1995, including a 41-year-old case.