MORLEY, Mich.- The decades-old mystery of a missing Ionia County teen runaway comes to a tragic conclusion.
Now, Clyde Lee Jourdan’s sick mother is doing everything she can to bring her son’s remains home.
Jourdan, known as Lee, ran away from his home in Belding to Utah in 1979. For decades his mother Mary Hagadus searched for him, even hiring a private investigator.
“I would say, please pray that someday I find my son and I kept doing this over and over,” Hagadus said.
She’s battling her second bout with breast cancer, but said her toughest battle has been the search for her son.
Lee was the oldest of her five children and prone to running away. When he took off in 1979 at age 17 a man named Robert Beeler took him in.
It wasn’t until last year, though social media, that Hagadus learned Lee’s tragic fate.
“He was 19 when he died,” she said. “It was the biggest blow; I always prayed that I would find him alive and that he had a happy life.”
Hagadus believes Beeler is responsible for Lee’s death in 1982. Beeler died in 2012 after being convicted of child molestation, only then did his own children feel safe enough to bring forward the truth.
“He got into that guy's (Beeler’s) face and they went outside and they were still arguing about it and I guess Robert came into the house and said, well Lee's dead,” Hagadus said.
Lee was buried in Clearfield, Utah under Beeler’s last name which had been changed with a forged Social Security number. That’s the reason Hagadus couldn’t find him and never knew he died.
“Not knowing my son had been dead all these years and I thought, my son does have a good life,” she said.
Now, Hagadus is fighting to bring her son, who would have turned 51 this year, home for good.
“They have to exhume him and they have to get the medical examiner to be there to sign the paperwork,” she said. Family then plans to have Lee’s remains cremated and brought back to Michigan.
Hagadus wants to hold a memorial ceremony at a park in Belding where Lee loved to fish.
“My daughter and I bought this urn that you put his ashes in and you put a tree in and it grows into a tree,” she said. It's chance for her to have closure after more than 30 years of searching.
“It will still feel empty because I always wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him how much I loved him,” she said.
Officials in Clearfield, Utah says there is still one final step before they can exhume Lee’s body. They hope to have the process completed and have his remains back in Michigan by the end of August.