History buffs help cops on case of homeless headstone

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ATLANTA -- It was the kind of case that a big city gumshoe with better things to do wouldn't look twice at.

The deceased wasn't talking. There were no leads to speak of. No body. No witnesses. Nothing but a mammoth hunk of granite with the name "BALL" stamped on it, some old dates and a sentimental message worn away by Father Time...

Police found the grave marker Oct. 30 in Norcross [Georgia], ditched on the side of the road like an empty box of smokes.

With real cases to crack and victims breathing down their necks, the police force had no time to chase shadows...

It was up to a pair of would-be Mike Hammers with time on their hands to get the first major break in the case that wasn't. Wesley Martin, 65, of Hoschton and Rick Johnson, 70 of Lilburn -- a regular Sherlock Holmes and Watson -- on Friday identified the name on the headstone as Reuben "Irving" Ball. They located history on the family and alerted police.

"It only took about an hour roughly after looking through books," said Johnson, a retired businessman.

Seven volumes to be exact. Cemetery records, Census data from 1880 and 1900, a copy of "Gwinnett County Georgia Families, 1818-2005." The local history book placed the tombstone at the John W. Ball Family Cemetery on Roswell Road near Dunwoody.

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