Details of Disappearance
Duane was a student at Williamsville North High School in 1974. On October 30, he called his mother and told him not to pick him up at school because he was going out with a friend to Akron Park.
He asked his mother to pick him up at Miles Road. Duane's mother went to Miles Road as instructed, but Duane never showed up. He has never been heard from again.
A Tonawanda, New York man named Michael Thurman confessed to Duane's murder in 1986. A photograph of Thurman is posted with this case summary. He first became a suspect in Duane's disappearance in 1986.
Thurman, who was 18 years old in October 1974, says Duane met him on October 30 at County Road in Clarence, to complete a drug transaction. The two of them began to argue over money and the argument escalated in to a fight. Thurman shot Duane to death and buried him near north French Road in North Amherst, New York.
Police spent months digging at that location after hearing the confession, but never found any remains. For many years Thurman remained a free man because authorities did not feel they had the evidence to convict him of Duane's murder without a body.
However, in recent years the courts have become more lenient in prosecuting homicides where there is no body, and the presumption of Duane's death was great. Since his disappearance he has not contacted his family or any of his friends, and he left all his personal belongings behind.
Authorities made the decision, in June 2003, to charge Thurman with second-degree murder in Duane's death. They elicited statements from witnesses who say they heard Thurman talk about killing him. Thurman was offered a plea bargain by prosecutors where he would face five to fifteen years in prison. He took it, pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
Duane remains missing; no trace of him was ever located.