1974 case of teen burned alive had a suspect, but never an arrest

David L. Eyman
David L. Eyman

David L. Eyman, 15 at the time of his death, was reported to have been found smoldering in a southern Kansas City ditch, bound at his hands and feet.

The Kansas City Police unit investigating the case suspected the Raymore officer who found Eyman had killed the teen. The officer was never charged in the case and later moved to central Kansas.

Eyman was burned alive Aug. 14, 1974, and found tied up “similar to the way a steer might be bound in a rodeo,” according to The Star at the time. A small amount of pot was found in his back pocket, though his wallet was missing. His body was unrecognizable from the burns.

He was later identified by a silver-and-turquoise ring and by matching a fingerprint.

The investigation into Eyman’s death was handled by the 25-person Metropolitan Major Case Squad for nine days, longer than the five days that was typical at the time. Before the case was handed off to the crimes against persons unit, and then declared a cold case, the Metro Squad interviewed the Raymore officer.

The officer had reported Eyman’s burning body around 3:45 a.m. to the Kansas City Police Department, rather than to the Raymore police chief, as he had been instructed. For that, he was later fired.

Because the officer had a record of discovering more fires of suspicious origin than any other law enforcement officer in the area, he was called in for questioning about the murder. Unnamed sources within the Metro Squad told The Star in 1979 they thought the Raymore officer had murdered Eyman.

The strongest evidence to support the belief was the result of a polygraph test indicating the officer was involved in the murder, according to the 1979 Star report. Missouri law required both parties to consent to the admission of those results in court, so the case never went forward. Polygraph tests vary widely in their reliability.

In 1979, a Star reporter interviewed the officer. He denied involvement with the crime, saying “there was nothing to confess to.” He described himself as a “dedicated officer,” and said his record of finding suspicious fires was due to his work ethic.

“When I was out, I worked,” he said. “I didn’t sit around drinking coffee like some of them.”

Case file

Name: David L. Eyman, of Kansas City

Age: 15

Circumstances of the crime: Found burned to death in a ditch early in the morning of Aug. 14, 1974.

Suspect information: Unknown.

Anyone with information is asked to call: Kansas City Police Department’s Cold Case Squad at 816-234-5136.