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Family pleads for answers in decades-old missing teen case

By Brittany Breeding

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    SHREVEPORT, LA (KTBS) — You may have the key to solving a decades-old missing persons case in Shreveport: the disappearance of a Byrd High School student last seen in 1971.

Now the family members of David Yeager are renewing the push for answers.

“Every night at 10 p.m. news stations would broadcast ‘It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?’ I just think back how many times I heard that myself and how many times my aunt must have heard that and her not know where her child was,” said Kelly Chance, Yeager’s cousin.

The 17-year-old Yeager was last seen on Feb. 6, 1971. The world was a lot different back then. Richard Nixon was president. The Vietnam War was raging, with protests growing stateside, and Superbowl V had just wrapped up with the Colts defeating the Cowboys.

For Yeager, it was his senior year at C.E. Byrd High School.

“He was excited and he was looking forward to his future,” said Chance.

Yeager was part of the library club, Gayarre history club, drama club, and he had joined the debate team.

“He was doing really well there, and they thought he kind of found his niche,” said Chance.

Yeager lived at a home on Lola Lane in Shreveport. It was the last place he was seen.

Chance said Yeager’s brother watched him walk out the door to go to a debate at Centenary College. He was walking.

“David didn’t seem concerned how he would get there. And David said, you know, just don’t worry about it, I got this and kind of went out the door,” said Chance.

This wasn’t a short walk. Investigators believe he would’ve taken Mansfield Road, which would be an 8-mile journey – a few hours on foot.

“With Mansfield Road back then, Kings Highway, Linwood, whichever routes, Herne Avenue, that he may have or would have taken, there’s residential and businesses built up now,” said Shreveport police Sgt. Richard Turpen.

Family members wonder if he caught a ride with someone – friend or stranger. Back then, hitchhiking was common.

“He just got in a car with someone, determined to get to that debate and it just may have been the wrong person,” said Chance.

“To this day, we’re assuming that David made it to the debate, but we’re not for sure. So if there’s anybody that was on the debate team or at the debate during that time that can provide us with that information as well,” said Turpen.

Whether he got to the debate, no one knows. But he never came home to his brother.

“He was already worried that David wasn’t home, but when David didn’t make it there by 10 p.m., that was an alarm bell going off for him because David would have come home,” said Chance. “Because David was 17 years old it was kind of a gray area of whether he was considered an adult, considered a child. So they did make them wait 24 hours before they would take the police report.”

That police report didn’t turn up much.

“Well, the original report was from 1971, which was only like two pages total. There weren’t that many investigation tools for detectives back then to be able to use and to follow up on,” said Turpen.

“From what my mother said, they treated David more like a runaway rather than that something happened to him,” said Chance.

Now, decades later all the family has to remember him are yearbook pictures.

“We have so very few because, you know, I think those are the things we take for granted today and with today’s technology,” said Chance.

The only tip they know of in 53 years is one from, at the time, Kathy James, 16, who claimed she saw Yeager two months later in Columbia Park and that he was living in Natchitoches. That sighting was never confirmed.

“But if that person, Kathy James, is out there, you know, hope that she can reach out to the department, contact us in reference to providing some information,” said Turpen.

His family firmly believes something happened to him.

“I don’t think the family ever thought that David was a runaway. It just didn’t make sense. David was a few months away from graduating. He had his class ring. He was excited,” said Chance.

The theories range from an accident, abduction, to even a run in with a serial killer. Danny Rolling, also known as “The Gainesville Serial Killer,” lived less than three miles from Yeager.

In 1989, he killed three people less than a tenth of a mile from Yeager’s home, but Rolling never mentioned Yeager before he was executed.

So where does the case stand now? You may have that missing piece investigators need. Right now, there are a lot of questions in this case.

“And so there might be even the smallest bit of information. We can’t even confirm 53 years later that there was a debate at that local college,” said Chance. “And so I do not know the girlfriend, I do not know who David would have tried to get a ride from”.

“What we really don’t have is contact from witnesses or anyone who may have seen David that day walking from his residence on Lola Lane,” said Turpen.

Even if you think what you know may not be relevant, speak up, police said.

“The more they thought about it as time went on, they may have never come forward and they may have that information today,” said Alan Nanavaty with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“If someone knows something, don’t take it to your grave,” said Chance.

Yeager would be 70 years old today.

If you know anything, or even went to school with Yeager, contact Shreveport police or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800- 843-5678.

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