UNIONTOWN (KDKA) — State Police say they have filed charges against a Westmoreland County man in connection with the shooting death of a teenage boy who died more than 40 years ago.

He would be 54 today if he were still alive. However, John Watson Jr.’s life was cut short in May of 1974.

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With hard work and determination over the years, Pennsylvania State Police and the Fayette County District Attorney’s office believe they got their man.

Watson’s niece never had the chance to meet her uncle.

“I really can’t describe how to feel. It’s just more heartbreaking because my mom and grandmother didn’t get to see justice. They went to their grave with broken hearts,” Erica Saunders, Watson’s niece, said.

Joseph Leos, 58, of Mount Pleasant was arrest on Wednesday.

Investigators were able to use evidence obtained at the scene of the crime, as well as evidence presented to the grand jury to track down Leos, leading to his arrest.

“What’s more devastating is a lot of the public doesn’t know, is that gentleman resided with us for years after the murder,” Saunders said.

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Saunders says Leos was a good friend who grew up with Watson.

Joseph Leos (Photo Courtesy: Fayette County Booking Center)

Joseph Leos (Photo Courtesy: Fayette County Booking Center)

More than 40 years ago on May 2, 1974, state police say Watson’s mom sent him to a nearby store in the Wheeler Bottom area of Dunbar Township, Fayette County, to pick up a few things.

Watson was 14-years-old. He never returned home that night.

Police say he was spotted on his way home, but then disappeared. The next morning he was found in a yard near his home with a gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Saunders says her mother and grandmother lived with regret for a long time.

“They wish, if they wouldn’t have done that, would things be different. There’s a lot of guilt my grandma and mom lived with wondering if they never sent him out, would this have ever happened. It still doesn’t make it right what was done,” Saunders said.

Leos is being charged with one count of criminal homicide. He’s being held at the Fayette County Prison without bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 3.

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