Details of Disappearance
Joseph was last seen departing from his family's residence on Samsonville Road in Kerhonkson, New York at 10:40 p.m. on March 25, 1996.
His brother said Joseph climbed out of a window in his bedroom. He planned to meet two friends, Daniel L. Malak and Alexander R. Barsky, at the Schwabie Turnpike, less than one mile from their home, to watch the Hyakutake comet. His friends said they waited for him at the site, but they left after he failed to arrive by midnight.
Joseph was reported as a missing person during the following morning. He has never been heard from again. Authorities did receive reports of sightings of him in the New Paltz, New York area in 1999, but the sightings were never confirmed.
Barsky was 15 years old at the time of Joseph's disappearance; Malak was 16 or 17. In 1997, Malak was charged with murdering a 62-year-old man in the victim's home. He was convicted the following year and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. Photos of both men are posted with this case summary.
In May 2008, authorities arrested Barsky and charged him with second-degree murder in Joseph's presumed death. Investigators stated they went to reinterview him about Joseph's case, and Barsky was evasive, failed a polgraph test and eventually confessed to Joseph's murder. It was supposedly committed in retaliation for some petty theft on Joseph's part.
According to Barsky's account, he and Malak picked up some marijuana before they went to meet Joseph to see the comet. The three boys went to a makeshift fort they had built, smoked the marijuana and drank beer.
Barsky and Malak then attacked Joseph from behind with two-foot length of metal pipe. They struck him approximately four times altogether before he died. After his death, they hid his body in a cave-like indentation in a rock.
Several years after Joseph's death, Barsky allegedly returned to the site, removed the bones, and dumped them in various trash cans in New York City. Authorities discovered forensic evidence to support Barsky's account, including some fabric, a tooth and a scrap of bone at the site where he says he originally hid the body.
In August 2008, Barsky pleaded guilty to a manslaughter and was sentenced to three to ten years in prison. The lenient sentence was due to his age at the time of the crime; he was three months short of his sixteenth birthday. He had he been 16 when Joseph died, he could have faced 25 years to life in prison.
Barsky apologized to Joseph's family at the sentencing hearing. He stated Malak was the instigator of the attack, and that it was Malak who struck the first two blows. He also claimed that when they attacked Joseph, they had only meant to hurt him and didn't intend for him to die.
In September 2009, Malak was also charged with second-degree murder. Barsky testified against him at his trial in September 2010, and he was found guilty.
Some agencies continue to classify Joseph's case as that of an endangered runaway. He was a student at Rondout Valley High School in 1996, and Barsky and Malak went to school with him.
Joseph enjoyed skateboarding in 1996 and had also participated in football, wrestling and track. Foul play is suspected in his disappearance due to the circumstances involved.