AUGUSTA, Maine, May 24 (UPI) -- Authorities in Maine are taking a new look at a decades-old missing persons case after the victim's parents received a mysterious letter recently from a person who claims to know what happened to their son nearly 40 years ago.
Bernard "Bunny" Ross, Jr., was last seen on May 12, 1977, after leaving his family's home in the town of Fort Kent. Police later found an abandoned vehicle they believe Ross had driven and dumped on a nearby dirt road.
No other trace of the 18-year-old man had ever been found, until the letter arrived.
Investigators said Ross' parents, Carol and Bernard, Sr., received the written communication a few months ago. Authorities have not released details of the letter, but said the author claims to have knowledge of the man's disappearance.
Now, the bizarre new lead has investigators taking a fresh look into the case.
"I've never had anything like this happen in my career," Maine State Police Lt. Troy Gardner told the Portland Press-Herald. "Of course, there's no way of knowing whether the letter's truthful or the information is accurate."
Investigators have not yet disclosed the author's identity or what role they might have in the case. However, they've said they do want to speak to the anonymous writer.
"We are asking for whoever wrote the letter to please contact us," Gardner said. "Basically, all we're doing is extending an olive branch, saying we want to make contact with this person."
Not revealing details of the letter, police say, is a standard practice intended to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
"If there were details in the letter that we felt were important to the investigation, we wouldn't release them," Gardner said.
Now investigators will try to determine whether the letter's contents are authentic -- or the product of an elaborate and callous hoax.
"There's always a possibility that it's a hoax," Gardner added. "Obviously, if it is a hoax, that's a horrible thing to do to somebody who's been missing their son since 1977."
"People had a hard time because there were no answers," Carol Ross said. "It's not like there was a death. It was the unknown.
"There was always the hope that he'd walk through the door one day."